Spending quality time outdoors can be great for your health, from getting some much needed vitamin D to relieving stress. Too much sun exposure comes with risks like sunburn, skin damage, and over time, skin cancer.
Sunscreen is a big part of protecting yourself, however there’s a lot of misinformation out there. To help you filter out the myths, here are some basic sun protection tips.
4 Key Sunscreen Tips:
1. What # SPF should you use and how often should you apply it?
Many people think that SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, represents how much time you can wear a product before applying it again. But that’s not true. SPF measures how much UV radiation a sunscreen can absorb before it stops working.1
Many dermatologists recommend a SPF 30. SPF 30 blocks 97% of the UVB rays that cause sunburn.2 Anything above that only offers a little more protection and nothing can block 100% of UVB rays.
Regardless of the SPF you choose, you should apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, plus after going in the water. This goes for sunscreens that say they’re waterproof, too. If you go in the water, you should reapply it.
2. Do moisturizers with SPF work as well as a specific sunscreen product?
SPF in a moisturizer can work just as well as SPF in sunscreen, however, you may not be applying enough moisturizer to get the coverage you need if you just spread some on with your hands.
The same is true with sunscreen. If you use a very small amount of sunscreen because you don’t like the way it feels or you think it’s too greasy, then likely you are not truly getting the SPF that’s noted on the packaging.
An easy way to ensure even coverage of your sunscreen is to apply it generously with a SunScreen brush like the one developed and sold by LaaTeeDa Sports.
Depending on your skin type, you may not want to keep applying moisturizer throughout the day, especially if your skin is naturally oily. It is a good idea to have a separate sunscreen product if you’ll be spending a lot of time outside - especially if you are heading to the beach or playing a round of golf.
If you are only going to and from your car or sitting by the window, then the SPF in your moisturizer is certainly better than nothing.
3. What’s the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen?
Chemical sunscreen absorbs rays within your skin cells, like a type of filter. Mineral sunscreen on the other hand, blocks the sun rays by sitting on the top layer of your skin, and will contain active ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
An easy way to identify a chemical versus mineral sunscreen is by texture and the appearance. Chemical sunscreens are typically transparent and less thick than mineral options. Both products can protect you from sun damage and there is no clear evidence that one is better for your health or more effective than the other, according to dermatologist, Sarah Adams, MD, FAAD.
Some sunscreen chemicals can be harsh on the environment though, particularly coral reefs as you may have heard. If you’re planning a beach vacation, you might opt to consider an eco-friendlier mineral sunscreen. Some places like Hawaii for instance have outlawed chemical sunscreens to protect ocean life. Make sure to research your destination if you’re traveling, so you can pack accordingly.
A blend of minerals and chemicals is not a bad choice to consider if you want some mineral protection that is thinner and lighter because it has a chemical mixed in. What ever your sunscreen choice is, make sure it is broad-spectrum. This way you can be sure it will protect against both UVA rays, which contribute to premature aging, and UVB rays, which cause burning and can lead to skin cancer. Sunscreens that are not broad-spectrum most likely won’t offer the protection you need against UVA rays.
4. When should you see a dermatologist about sun damage?
Small changes in your skin are normal over time, even if you apply sunscreen the right way, however it is important to know what changes warrant a visit to a dermatologist . If you see any kind of new growths, bumps or lumps that form under the skin, flaky areas, bleeding, scabbing, and itching would all be signs to see a dermatologist.
Here are some other preexisting factors could also justify more regular skin checks:
- A high number of moles (100 or more)
- Personal or family history of skin cancer
- Fair skin
- Blue eyes
- Red hair
1“Sun Protection Factor,” U.S. Food & Drug Administration, accessed May 6, 2022.
2“Sunscreen FAQs,” American Academy of Dermatology Association, accessed May 14, 2022.