How Do I Properly Use Sunscreen?

You can properly use sunscreen by understanding a product’s sun protection factor (SPF), applying the right amount of sunscreen, and applying sunscreen even when indoors. The SPF of your sunscreen should be at least 30; a higher score is better but not necessary. When using sunscreens, too much is better than too little, so generously apply it to every exposed body part. In addition, make it a habit to use sunscreen indoors, because a certain type of ray from the sun penetrates and damages skin through windows. Lastly, keep in mind that no sunscreen can protect you from the sun completely, and using sunscreen does not mean you can safely stay outdoors for long periods of time.

The SPF is usually the most confusing aspect about sunscreen. An SPF score is calculated by how long it takes a person to burn after he or she uses sunscreen. For example, if it normally takes 20 minutes of sun exposure to start burning, it should take 30 times longer with the application of SPF 30 sunscreen. People burn at different rates depending on their skin type and the amount of sun exposure they are getting, so the SPF score is just an approximate. In addition, using a higher SPF gives people slightly better protection from ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, but SPF is often lowered by people applying too little sunscreen.

Even when people use sunscreen, they usually do not apply enough. Sunscreen should be applied liberally, using at least 1 ounce (about 30 grams) of the substance to cover exposed skin. One ounce of sunscreen is enough to fill two tablespoons, one shot gloss, or the palm of your hand. Apply it at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and then reapply after swimming, sweating, or every two hours. Makeup products and lotions containing sunscreen must also be reapplied about every two hours to be effective.

The sun emits a type of ray called ultraviolet A (UVA), which can penetrate unprotected windows of homes and vehicles. Use sunscreen every day, even if you do not plan on going outside, to avoid permanently damaging your skin. Incorporate sunscreen products into your everyday life, from makeup products to moisturizing lotion, to make it less of a chore to apply sunscreen. On days you are definitely staying indoors, you can get away with applying sunscreen to only exposed skin, such as the face and hands.

While sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer and premature skin aging, it cannot protect you 100 percent. You can still burn when wearing sunscreen, and it is not safe to use for tanning purposes. The safest method of tanning is to use a product that stains your skin a slightly darker color rather than using artificial lights or excessive sun exposure.


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