How to Use Sunscreen Properly
The summer season is upon us – Memorial Day is fast approaching and for many, that means a weekend of sun and fun – and potential damage to the skin from overexposure to ultraviolet rays.
Given that, we cannot let this summer season come and go without stressing the importance of protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. So be prepared for countless reminders and updates. After all, the damage to the skin from just one sunburn can set off a chain of events that will alter the cell structure and potentially change your skin forever.
The key to protecting your skin is simple – use sunscreen. We spoke to Diane Heinz, Licensed Medical Aesthetician, who sees and treats loads of sun damaged skin every week. We asked her for some best practices for using sunscreen. Here is what she recommends:
- Check the expiration date – expired sunscreen offers no protection. If you have old sunscreen, check the expiration date. Sunscreen is designed to remain stable for three years. For those products without an expiration date, it’s best to throw them out within two years after the purchase. When purchasing new sunscreen try to purchase sunscreens that actually display an expiration date. There are many brands that don’t display this important information – believe it or not, some sunscreen bottles have been sitting on the store shelf for a while before you purchase it.
- Check the label – use a broad spectrum sunscreen only. That means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays. These are the two types of light that can harm your skin. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is designed to protect you from both. UVA rays can penetrate deeply into your skin and suppress your immune system. This increases the risk of wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to both UVA and UVB rays increases your risk of skin cancer, promotes cell degeneration that causes premature aging and stimulates melanin production resulting in dark spots, freckles, and potentially, melasma. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light.
- Apply sunscreen properly – most people do not use enough sunscreen. This diminishes the protection since all sunscreen is designed to protect using approximately one ounce of sunscreen (about a full shot glass) applied from head to toe. So how does that break down form one part of the body to the next – these guidelines might help:
Face: Use a penny-sized amount of sunscreen on your face. Remember the hairline, exposed scalp, tops of the ears and even your eyelids (areas most people forget).
Neck and Décolletage: Apply the size of two almonds to fully protect this area.
Arms and Hands: Use about two quarter-sized rounds of lotion, one for each arm. Remember to apply sunscreen to the under arm area and the tops of your hands.
Stomach: Use a dollop the size of a grape to provide adequate coverage to your midsection.
Back and Shoulders: Measure out a squeeze of sunscreen roughly equivalent to the size of three mini marshmallows to completely cover this high-profile area.
Legs and Feet: Two half dollar-sized blobs of sunscreen, one for each side, protects from the top of your legs on down.
- Apply Sunscreen Often – Make sure to reapply sunscreen at least every 80 minutes and immediately after swimming or sweating. Starting in 2012, there can be no more claims that a sunscreen is ‘waterproof’ or ‘sweat proof’ – that’s because these products lead people believe that they need only apply the product once and they will be protected all day. New labeling rules require that these products are now labeled ‘water resistant’ and manufacturers will have to specify how long the water resistance lasts – either 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating (these times are based on standardized testing).
- Store Sunscreen Properly – many people keep sunscreen in a beach bag that stays in the car or garage until it’s needed again. Even exposing sunscreen to the heat while at the beach can kill the active ingredients. Keep sunscreen in a cool dry place between outdoor visits in order to ensure that the active ingredients will continue to do their job.
- Finally, SPF 30 is the new SPF 15 – because of the thinning ozone layer and extreme heat of the sun, SPF30 should be your go-to minimum sunscreen.
- Sunscreen: New Guidelines this Summer (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Frequently Asked Questions About Sunscreen (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Signs of Sun Damage & How to Prevent Sun Damage (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Sun Damaged Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Professional Treatment of Sun Damaged Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Repairing Sun Damaged Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)