7 Sunscreen Mistakes That Hurt Your Skin

Even the best sunscreen won’t protect you well if you don’t apply it correctly. Follow these tips to make sure you’re well protected.

Wearing sunscreen is one of the healthiest things you can do for your summer. A good sunscreen with effective UVA and UVB protection can prevent you from getting burned, reduce the development of wrinkles and other signs of aging, and decrease your risk of skin cancer.

Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or higher. Be sure to take a mineral sunscreen with zinc and titanium for daily use. Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, protect the skin from the sun’s rays and tend to be less irritating and more hydrating than chemical sunscreens, which work by absorbing the rays and converting them into heat in the body.

But your job isn’t done when choosing the perfect sunscreen. Too many people manage to mess up the application process, by smearing too little, skipping vulnerable spots, etc. The most serious consequence of giving up sunscreen is the development of skin cancer, but this is not the only reason to apply it. Sunburn damages skin cells and blood vessels, and can cause skin to appear older, wrinkly, drier, more discolored, and harder.

The aging effect of the sun’s rays is a key reason to be diligent in applying sunscreen. Several large studies show that regular use of sunscreen can reduce photoaging over time: redness, dark spots and wrinkles. Take for example a study published in 2013 in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. Researchers found that UV exposure was responsible for around 80% of the visible signs of facial aging.

The biggest sunscreen slip-ups we tend to make, and how to outsmart them

1. You wait until you’re already at the beach to apply sunscreen

If you’re ankle deep in sand when you slather on sunscreen, you’ll come home looking like a lobster. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out, as that’s how long your skin needs to absorb the protective ingredients. Apply it as evenly as possible before getting dressed to avoid missing areas like the ankles and feet.

2. You’re too stingy when you apply your sunscreen

To get the protection advertised on the sunscreen, a little slap will not be enough. Most people apply too little, resulting in too little protection. On beach days, coat your entire body with at least 1 full glass of sunscreen.

3. You skip important areas

It is important to apply sunscreen to all areas that will be exposed to the sun. Although there are a few places that people tend to miss. A study published in April 2019 in the journal PLoS One found that almost 20% of participants did not apply sunscreen to their eyelids. The study participants had no idea they had missed this spot. This is worrying because the skin of the eyelid has the highest incidence of skin cancer per unit area.

The lips are another often overlooked area that is prone to damage because they don’t contain a lot of melanin. A protective pigment that gives color to skin, hair and eyes. The more hydrated your lips are, the easier and deeper UV rays penetrate unprotected skin. Shiny, moist lips attract harmful UV rays, so watch out for gloss. It’s like putting baby oil on your skin.

4. You don’t bother to reapply your sunscreen

Sunscreen is not a magic potion that protects you forever. The rule of thumb: Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, more often if you sweat profusely or go swimming.

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Even sunscreens labeled “water resistant” only need to maintain their SPF for up to 80 minutes (the label on water resistant sunscreens will say whether they remain effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes in the water) . A new application will also help you achieve a more even spread.

5. You don’t wear enough sunscreen

If you don’t apply sunscreen evenly, you won’t get the protection promised on the label. Be extra careful when applying and go over exposed areas several times to maximize coverage. Aerosol sunscreens that don’t require rubbing can help alleviate this problem. You just have to be thorough in the application. Sprays are handy, but it can be hard to tell if you’ve covered all exposed areas. To be sure, keep spraying until a sheen appears all over the body.

6. You forgo sunscreen when the weather is cloudy

Even when the sun is not visible, 80% of its UV rays continue to hit your skin. It is therefore important to apply sunscreen every time you go out, regardless of cloud cover. To remember it in summer, place your sunscreen right next to your toothpaste to remind you to apply it every day.

7. You don’t know the expiration date

Have you used the same bottle of sunscreen year after year? You risk putting your skin at risk. The protective quality of a sunscreen lasts up to three years. After that, it may not offer the level of protection indicated on the bottle. Check the expiration date before applying it, and if you don’t see one, assume it expires three years from the date of purchase. Note the date of purchase on the bottle to help you keep track of it.

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