By now, we all know the benefits of a skincare routine. By giving ourselves extra time to go through various steps — from cleansing to moisturizing — we protect our skin from the first signs of aging. However, we often skip over one of the most vital steps that ensure our skin is safe from the sun. Or, we believe simply slathering on SPF 30 once a day is enough. Unfortunately, these mistakes can have a lasting impact on our skin, potentially leading to severe conditions or diseases.
The two primary forms of ultraviolet radiation received from sun rays are UVA and UVB, both of which have been associated with skin cancers, including melanoma, warns Peterson Pierre, MD, dermatologist and the founder of the Pierre Skin Care Institute. “Excessive sun exposure can accelerate the aging process through the production of free radicals which break down collagen and elastin in the skin in addition to causing fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration,” he continues. “Anything you can do to protect yourself from the sun will improve your health and quality of life.”
So how can you ensure every last inch of your body is safe? By not making these mistakes with your sun protection practice:
Mistake #1: Thinking makeup with SPF is enough.
Many foundations include an added SPF of 15 or 30. Though you may think that’s enough for the day, dermatologist Dr. Julie Karen, M.D., says to think again. Even if you are wearing a foundation that offers protection, since it will not offer the same value or potency of protection. A better solution is finding an SPF 30 or 50 and applying a dime-size amount all over your face and neck. Then, please wait for it to dry before continuing with your make-up application.
Mistake #2: Only using sunscreen as sun protection.
You’re heading to the beach to enjoy the surf and sand, so you generously apply your sunscreen, and you’re good to go, right? Not so much, says Dr. Karen. In fact, she goes as far as to say that sunscreen is just one of the critical components of adequate sun protection. By definition, sunscreen is meant to keep you safe from the sun you can’t avoid because you’re going for a walk, on a run, or watching your kiddos do cannonballs into the pool. However, there are still other critical measures you should take, including:
1.Seeking shade: When at all possible, try to scout out a spot in the shade. Or if you’re on the beach, using an umbrella to shield you. This is always important, but particularly during the hours when the sun is the strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
2. Wear a wide-brimmed hat: If you’re gardening or you’re otherwise directly under sun rays, Dr. Karen says a wide-brimmed hat can shield the sensitive pores on your face.
3. Sport sun-protective clothing: Unlike sunscreen, clothing with SPF doesn’t lose its efficacy over the day and is less time-consuming. In other words: sunscreen needs to be reapplied consistently, while tops and bottoms do not.
Mistake #3: Only applying sunscreen once a day.
And on that note: a once-a-day application is never enough with sunscreen. As Dr. Karen puts it, unfortunately, many individuals seem to feel invincible: perhaps they love the way the sun feels, perhaps they still crave a sun-kissed look.
Many patients will come into her office and promise they wore sunscreen, yet have tan lines or sunburns. Because of this, she says she spends a lot of time re-educating her patients on what sun-smart behavior is and isn’t. “Applying a single coat of SPF 50 to one’s body and then sunbathing all day is not even close to sufficient to protect one from the damaging effect of the sun’s UV radiation,” she continues.
When you’re applying sunscreen, check the back label to see how long it lasts. And keep in mind, if you’re swimming and/or sweating profusely, you may need to reapply even more often. Every formula is different, but generally speaking, once every hour is optimal.
Mistake #4: Not applying sunscreen everywhere and every day.
How much sunscreen do you really need? Probably more than you think, according to Dr. Adam Mamelak, an Austin-based board-certified dermatologist. He says it takes one ounce of sunscreen to cover your entire body to get the level of protection it says on the bottle. Or to put it in terms that are easy to visualize: that’s about a shot glass full of sunscreen.
In addition to paying attention to quantity, it’s also essential to focus on consistency. Even if it’s raining or snowing outside, sun protection always matters, no exceptions. So, put it on! “Sunscreen works best when you apply it! Sunscreen now comes in lotions, creams, sprays, and sticks, amongst others,” he continues. “With so many different preparations, there’s something for everyone.”
Mistake #5: Not scheduling a skin check.
Just like you schedule a yearly tooth cleaning and physical exam, a skin check with a dermatologist is critical. As Dr. Karen says, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but it’s almost always curable when caught in the earliest stage. So if you haven’t, book an appointment ASAP to ensure your skin is as safe as possible.
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