10 Big Sunscreen Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

May 9, 2017 in Health and Wellness

By: Carolyn Eagle , Senior Editor, Health Media Today

 

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Every year over 80,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada, with 80-90% of those being cause by UV (Ultraviolet) radiation. We all know by now that reaching for the sunscreen is the responsible thing to do, but there are some big mistakes many of us make with our sunscreen which means we just don’t have as much protection as we may have thought.

 

USING OLD SUNSCREEN

The ingredients in sunscreen can break down and lose their efficiency over time, so if you have a bunch of bottles full of the dregs from last year or even the year before, better to toss them out and get something new. Check your expiration dates and take them to heart. If you notice a change in the colour or texture of your sunscreen, make sure to throw it out.

 

USING THE WRONG KIND OF SUNSCREEN

The sun emits UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the ones that cause the long-term skin damage and penetrate more deeply. UVB rays are the ones that cause you to burn and redden. You need to make sure a sunscreen provides protection against both, which is usually indicated by the term “Broad Spectrum” on the label.

 

THINKING HIGH SPF SUNCREEN WILL PROTECT YOU ALL DAY

The ability of sunscreen to absorb harmful UVB rays does not increase exponentially as SPF numbers go up. Simply put, an SPF of 15 absorbs 93.3% of UVB rays but an SPF of 50 absorbs 98%. Not much difference even though the SPF number has jumped from 15 to 50. The American FDA actually recommended that sunscreen SPF claims be capped at a level of 30 in order to avoid confusion or a false sense of security, but companies have ignored these recommendations.

 

NOT APPLYING ENOUGH SUNSCREEN

Most people only apply about half of the amount that was used in laboratory testing. Guidelines for average adults generally call for 1 ounce of sunscreen applied every 2 hours which amounts to enough to fill a shot glass.

 

FOGETTING TO REAPPLY

Sunscreen is meant to be reapplied when you are out in the sun for extended periods of time. Every two hours is the rule of thumb. Even waterproof and sweat proof sunscreens decrease in effectiveness when we swim or sweat and don’t forget that sand or towel drying will rub the sunscreen off your body.

 

RUBBING YOUR SUNSCREEN IN TOO MUCH

Sunscreen is meant to be applied gently and left to soak into your skin. If you are vigorously rubbing it in, you are decreasing its efficacy.

 

NOT APPLYING ON CLOUDY DAYS

Up to 80% of UV rays are capable of penetrating clouds so don’t think you’re safe just because you can’t see the sun.

 

NOT APPLYING YOUR FIRST COAT UNTIL YOU’RE OUT IN THE SUN

For maximum effectiveness, sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow it to absorb into skin. Ideally, if you think that you may be out in the sun long enough to burn, you should be applying that first coat 30 minutes before going out and another coat just as you are going outside.

 

NOT KNOWING IF YOUR MEDICATION MAKES YOU MORE SENSITIVE TO SUN

Check the side effects on your prescription medication. Antibiotics, some acne treatments, even anti-depressants can increase your sun sensitivity. Over the counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofin, Aleve, Motrin, and Advil plus Benadryl and other antihistamines can also decrease the efficacy of your sunscreen

 

FORGETTING ABOUT YOUR EXTREMITIES

Ears, scalp, and the back of the neck are all easy to miss when you’re applying your sunscreen. The tops of your feet are also another area that burns easily and can be forgotten. Make sure you always have some kind of SPF lip balm as well because lips burn easily. 



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