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Sunscreen is arguably the most important part of your day-to-day beauty regimen - but that doesn't mean that people get it right. Here are five things that even smart shopper mess up about sunscreen, along with what you really need to know about this super vital skincare step.
Most people don’t apply sunscreen to allof their exposed skin. In fact, in one study by the Minnesota Medical School,only 33% of the 2,187 participants applied sunscreen everywhere their skin was exposed. What’s worse, while 51% of these people applied sunscreen to their arms, only 6% rubbed it on their chest - and a measly 3.6% bothered to swipe some on their legs.
And. in general, these numbers get even worse on cloudy days (despite the fact that 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can still reach the skin in overcast conditions).
This can be more problematic than you realize: UVA and UVB rays can age skin and cause cancer - and this can often occur on your most-missed spots.
Our recommendation? Use a moisturizer (and even makeup) that includes SPF - that way, you’ll kill two birds with one stone, and you’ll be less likely to skip this crucial step.
Sunscreen starts to degrade after about two hours, which means that you simply don’t have enough protection throughout the day if you’re not reapplying your sunblock every two hours or so.
This can even apply indoors. The American Cancer Society pointed out that, while windows usually block UVB rays, UVA rays still penetrate through the glass. If you work or sit by a window, then, you could be risking major skin damage over time. And that’s not the only risk: smartphones, TVs, computers, and other devices emit blue light - and it’s thought that long-term exposure to this high-frequency light can cause skin damage (you can read more about that here). All of this requires sufficient filtering and protection to counteract.
Effective sun protection isn’t justabout slathering on sunscreen. In fact, wearing sun-protective clothing and engaging in good habits - like searching for shade or staying indoors when the sun is strongest - can majorly reduce the risk of developing skin cancer and other UV-related concerns.
In fact, one professor explained that, with a hat, for every one inch of brim you wear on a regular basis, you lower your skin cancer risk by about 10%. A 4-inch brim, then, will lower your skin cancer risk by 40%. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Many people don’t focus on purchasing broad-spectrum sunscreen. This is a huge mistake. Sunscreens with SPF alone only help protect against ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. While these rays cause the majority of visible reddening and burns, UVA rays are the ones that can read deeper layers of the dermis and cause damage.
That’s why you need sun protection that guards against both. That’s where broad-spectrum sunscreen comes into play. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays, which means they can really protect against skin cancer, skin aging, wrinkles, and skin inflammation.
By the same token, many users don’t really understand what SPF means (and so they misuse SPF as a result). In fact, in a study by Northwestern University:
In short, most people just don’t know what’s what. And here’s the thing: higher SPF does not mean more protection.
SPF, or sun protection factor, simply measures the amount of protection against the redness caused by UVB rays. A 30 SPF sunscreen, then, allows the wearer to stay in the sun for 30 times longer without getting burned. But here’s the problem: if you’re using a sunscreen with a super high SPF - say, SPF 100 - you can stay in the sun for 100 times longer than you would be able to without anysunscreen, and you won’t get red. After all, UVB rays cause reddening of the skin, and you have 100 SPF protection against those.
The problem? That whole time, the UVA rays are getting through and causing damage deep within your dermis. That means wrinkles, DNA damage, and more - and you won’t feel it because you’re not getting a surface burn. That’s why the EWG recommends that consumers avoid using sunscreens with SPF over 50+.
Overall, you’re better off with a broad spectrum SPF 30 than a regular SPF 100.
Overall, you want to use a sunscreen that’s labeled as “broad-spectrum protection.” You will want to use an SPF of 30 or higher - since that blocks about 97% of UVB radiation - and you want a formulation that’s water-resistant.
Lastly, you will want to use about one ounce (about the amount you would use to fill a shot glass) on your body, and you’ll need to reapply every two hours your skin is exposed.
Here’s to happy, healthy days in the sun!