Sunscreen can be a pain to remember and apply, especially when you just want to get out on the water, off on your run, or to an outdoor concert or bbq. But, as we all know, sunscreen is essential in preventing burns and reducing cancer risk, not to mention keeping your skin looking beautiful for years to come. Here’s everything you need to know about slathering on the block.

Benefits:

  • Protection from damaging rays. 
  • Moisture from many of sunscreens’ hydrating properties.
  • Smooth, youthful looking skin for longer.

How to choose:

  • Try a few. Picking a sunscreen that you like can take a few rounds of trial and error because sunscreens have different scents, absorption rates, and consistencies.
  • Look for broad-spectrum sunscreens.  This means that they block both UVA and UVB rays. Both are harmful and many sunscreens only block UV-B rays.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals. Stay away from sunscreens containing parabens, oxybenzone, and retinyl palmitate. They can cause irritation and allergic reactions.
  • Research ingredients for yourself. Sunscreens, like all other beauty products, contain a variety of ingredients. Make sure you are comfortable with what you are buying and putting on your skin. Start by reading the label and looking up terms you don’t understand. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database will tell you everything you need to know which products contain potentially harmful chemicals.
  • When to Apply:  30 minutes before you go anywhere. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go out and/or get in the water so your skin can absorb it. Sunscreen can wash off with water or sweat, and applying it ahead of time gives it a little more staying power. Reapply every two to three hours during the day so you can cover any spots that may have thinned out, washed off, or rubbed off.  Maybe even more often if you are swimming or sweating heavily.

How to Apply:

  • Shake well. Ensure even distribution of all important ingredients.
  • Apply liberally. The CDC recommends having a handful to cover your whole body.
  • Don’t miss a spot. You don’t want a burn, and you definitely don’t want a blotchy burn. So ask a friend, or your mom, or your crush (whoever is around), to help you get that spot on your back and make sure everything is rubbed in behind your ears.
  • Be careful around your eyes! It stings! It stings!

Also good to know:

  • Don’t be fooled by sunscreens with an SPF above 50. They can make you think you have extra protection, leading to prolonged, and potentially damaging time in the sun without re-applying.
  • It never hurts to wear a hat or protective clothing. Even with sunscreen, rays can get by.
  • Tanning creams and oils (including ones with SPF) are bad for you. They can tempt you with the promise of golden skin, but they’re a really bad idea. They leave you vulnerable to long term damage including wrinkles and skin cancer.
  • Be careful with spray-on sunscreens.  The FDA has had some concern about the safety of spray sunscreens in children.  There is no warning for teens and adults, but because no chemical is healthy when it is inhaled into your lungs, it is safer to apply these types of sunscreens in well-ventilated areas or outdoors and take care not to breathe in the fumes.
  • Self-tanners and bronzers can provide an alternative. If you want to get the glow without the sun, there are some “clean” (free of nasty chemicals) beauty products that can give you just the look you’re after. Check your choices against Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, and shine bright like a diamond.