Not Using Sunscreen? We’re Throwing Shade at You

By Martha Michael

The Right Sunscreen for You

If you spend any time on your social media accounts, you’re probably aware of such national days of recognition as “Sibling Day,” “National Pet Day,” and “Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day.”

There are themes for nearly every day of the year and while some sound silly, many are good reminders of beneficial health habits, such as National Sunscreen Protection Day on May 27.

If you’re already in the habit of applying daily sunscreen to exposed areas of your skin, give yourself a pat the next time you apply it to your back. But unfortunately, you’re in the minority. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, just 14.3 percent of men and 29.9 percent of women use sunscreen regularly.

Getting It Right

While making this a new part of your routine is a step in the right direction, an article on the association’s website says there is a right way to apply sunscreen, beginning with the level of protection you choose.

Your sunscreen needs to have a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30 or higher and it needs to provide broad-spectrum coverage, meaning you gain protection from both UVB and UVA rays. Experts also advise you to use a brand that’s water resistant.

It’s important to apply a generous amount, as well, and allow 15 minutes for it to soak into your skin before going outside. If you head out before it’s fully absorbed, there’s a higher possibility that you’re exposing your skin to damage by the sun.

Most adults need approximately 1 ounce of sunscreen rubbed thoroughly into the skin and it should cover every part of the body that’s exposed – including ears, neck, the tops of feet and legs. And if you’re balding, the top of your scalp could burn without sunscreen.

Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, every two hours if possible -- more often if you’re swimming. And you should also use lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Sunny or cloudy, your exposed skin is affected by UV rays.

Types of Sunscreen

An article in Harper’s Bazaar points out the differences between products, claiming there are two kinds of sunscreen -- physical and chemical. Physical sunscreen is thick and pasty, the type of lotion that may take longer to rub in, but it begins deflecting the sun’s rays right away.

Products with the second type of formula -- chemical sunscreens -- tend to rub into your skin quickly and easily, plus they moisturize, but they take 15-20 minutes to become effective. The first example is referred to as sunblock and is a physical sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. This type of lotion deflects both UVB and UVA rays from the top of the skin.

Chemical sunscreen, by contrast, contains several ingredients to provide broad spectrum coverage but for a lot of people it’s an irritant. While you may prefer these lotions, there are warnings by experts.

“Some of the chemical sunscreens can actually cause free radical formation, which leads to more sun damage in the long run,” says Dr. Cathleen London, assistant professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. “The ideal combination is supplementation with antioxidants such as tomato-based lycopene as well as physical sunscreen."

Play, But Play It Safe

With summer a month away, we want you to have fun in the sun and live life to the fullest, but you should do what you can to play it safe using proper precautions and maintaining an awareness of the ways lifestyle may be affecting your health. That way you can be sure to enjoy what every day brings, whether it’s Hobbit Day, Gymnastics Day or National Lazy Mom’s Day. And if we have to throw a little shade your way to get you wearing sunscreen, we’re good with that, too.

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