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If you find a bottle of sunscreen packed in last year’s pool bag, here’s a tip: Throw it away. Because active compounds can degrade and lose their effectiveness, slathering on old lotions or sprays is a mistake people make when trying to protect their skin.
Approximately 84,000 people in the United States each year are diagnosed with melanoma and more than 8,000 die from this type of skin cancer. Also, millions of basal cell cases AND squamous cell carcinomas are diagnosed every year, and approx 90% of these are skin cancers they are related to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The use of sunscreen plays a « key role » in skin protection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. So, we asked dermatologists to share their tips for optimizing protection, and learned about the common misperceptions they hear from patients.
1 Worried about chemicals? Try a mineral alternative
Research shows some of the active ingredients used in chemical sunscreens they are absorbed into the bloodstream and the FDA has conducted a safety review. The agency says there is « inadequate data » to support a security finding for some chemicals such as oxybenzone, but there is no evidence of harm. And most dermatologists say the risk of sunburn probably far outweighs any potential risk from sunscreen chemicals. However, if you’re concerned, there are options for avoiding these compounds.
Alternatives include physical sunscreens, also called mineral sunscreens, made from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which can physically block UV light.
« I think zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are much safer than chemical sunscreens because they are inert, » He says Dr. Tola Oyesanya, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente in the Baltimore area. He says mineral sunscreens are better for sensitive skin since they’re less likely to irritate.
To avoid the « 80s lifeguard look » with the thick, white paste, there are now more zinc oxide products available that are much lighter and more « aesthetically elegant, » she says. Dr. Jennifer Holmandermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Dr. Ida Orengochair of the Department of Dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine says that, unlike chemical sunscreens, these mineral-based sunscreens can stay on the skin’s surface and « act as a shield or barrier » to deflect sunlight.
And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says chemical-free sunscreens are better for coral reefs and marine life.
2 Applying enough sunscreen is just as important as the SPF
A sunscreen with an SPF, or sun protection factor, of 15 blocks about 93% of UV rays, and when you go up to SPF 30, you’re blocking about 97% of UV rays. Further up, « you don’t get much more sun protection, » says Dr. Orengo.
« SPF 30 is enough, » says Dr. Oyesanya. « There is no sunscreen that filters out 100% of the sun’s rays, so 97% is good enough, » he says. Rather than focusing on the SPF, Oyesanya says to pay attention to how much sunscreen you apply. Skimping is one of the mistakes that many people make.
So, here’s a guide: Apply the equivalent of a shot glass which is about 1.5 ounces of liquid sunscreen to cover both body and face. If you’re just covering your face, use about a teaspoon.
“Spray sunscreens are a bit risky because it’s easy to lose an entire area of your body, especially if you apply them outdoors in the wind, Oyesanya says. you need to cover,” she says, since there’s no easy way to measure how much spray you’ve applied.
3 Higher SPF sunscreens don’t last all day
Many people use products with a sun protection factor of SPF 50, or even higher, and assume that it offers them longer-lasting protection. « The misconception is that it lasts twice as long. It’s not true, » she says Dr. Gregory Papadeas, a dermatologist in Denver, Colorado.
Even the highest SPF sunscreens require frequent reapplications. « You wear them, especially if you’re swimming or sweating, » says Dr. Orengo.
Dermatologists recommend that people reapply sunscreen every 2 hours to ensure complete protection. Papadeas says his family buys new sunscreen products every season, as « the chemicals get weaker » and are less effective over time. So, he looks for the expiration date, or better yet, stock up on new products in early summer.
4 Cloudy days can lead to sunburn
Many people think clouds protect them from the sun and forget to wear sunscreen. But it’s easy to get sunburned on a cloudy day.
Clouds block about 20 percent of sunlight, Dr. Holman explains. « You’re still getting about 80 percent of your UV rays filtered through those clouds, » says Holman. « You can absolutely still take damage from UV radiation on a cloudy day. » So even when it’s cloudy, remember to keep some sunscreen handy.
But it’s best not to store sunscreen in hot places like the trunk or glove compartment of your car. « When sunscreen is stored in a hot place, the sunscreen is actually degraded by the heat, » says Dr. Oyesanya. It’s best to store it in a cool, dry place, to make it last throughout the season.
5 Hats, clothing and sunglasses help block the sun
Baseball caps may protect the forehead, but other parts of the face are exposed. If you want to protect yourself from the sun with a hat, we always recommend a hat with a three-inch brim [made from] a tightly woven material,” says Dr. Orengo.
The sun can damage your eyes too. According to doctors at Johns Hopkins University, even a day in the sun can burn the corneaand, over time, sun exposure can cause cataracts. The optimal way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection, according to Hopkins doctors.
There are many T-shirts, hats, and other apparel with sun protection built into the fabric, from brands like Columbia, Cotopaxi, Sombra, and Mott50. Dr. Orengo also talks about it to her patients Sun Guard, a powder you can throw in the washing machine to coat your clothes in a chemical sunscreen, giving your laundered clothes an SPF of 30, which lasts through multiple washes. And another product that may appeal to families with young children: UV stickers to be applied to the skin. These the stickers change colour when it’s time to reapply sunscreen.
6 People of all skin tones and all ages benefit from sunscreen
With the exception of babies under 6 months of age, sunscreen is recommended for all groups. While fair-skinned people may be more prone to sunburn, all skin types are vulnerable to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. « I’ve eliminated skin cancers from every skin type, » says Dr. Jennifer Holman.
The risk of melanoma in someone with dark skin is certainly lower than in someone with lighter skin, she says Dr Oyesanya, « but it’s not impossible. » He says people with darker skin who have had a lot of sun exposure should be careful to check their palms, soles, fingernails, inside of their mouths, and toenails. « These are all areas where you can develop skin cancer, and that’s because there’s less melanin in those areas, » she says.