Did you know that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime? Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and when caught early, it is also the most treatable. For those who work outside or participate in regular outdoor activities, covering up and choosing the right sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer.
Most people know that sunscreen is your best tool to lower the risk of skin cancer, especially the deadliest form, melanoma, as well as reduce skin aging caused by the sun. But did you know that it’s all about the right sunscreen and how you use it?
What to Look For
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that consumers choose a sunscreen product with the following qualities:
- Broad spectrum – Broad spectrum sunscreen protects the skin from both ultraviolet A (also known as UVA) and ultraviolet B (also known as UVB) rays because both can cause skin cancer.
- SPF 15 or higher – The SPF rating indicates how well a sunscreen will protect you from sunburn. SPF 15 is effective in blocking harmful UVB rays for most people. If you are fair skinned, have a family history of skin cancer, or conditions such as lupus that increase sensitivity to sunlight, consider SPF 30 or higher.
- Key ingredients – Ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide. These ingredients block UVA rays.
How to Apply & How Often
While choosing the best sunscreen is important, using it correctly is something a lot of people are confused about. One ounce of sunscreen, which is enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the right amount. Cover all exposed areas of the body thoroughly. Don’t skimp. Many people don’t use enough sunscreen.
Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Don’t forget the tips of the ears, feet, back of the legs, and bald spot if you have one. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Use a UV-protective lip balm to protect your lips.
If you are going to be exercising or in the water, it’s a good idea to get a sunscreen that is resistant to water and sweat. The FDA defines water resistant to mean that the SPF level stays effective after 40 minutes in the water. Very water resistant means it is effective after 80 minutes of swimming. These sunscreens are not waterproof, so you’ll need to reapply regularly.
It’s important to wear sunscreen whenever you are outside during daylight hours. Even on an overcast day, 80 percent of the dangerous UV rays make it through. Even in winter months, exposure to the sun can damage your skin. Though vitally important, sunscreen will not fully protect your skin from the sun’s rays, so also consider these additional precautions to protect your skin from sun damage:
- Stay in the shade when you can.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, preferably with polarized lenses.
- Stay inside between 10 and 4 when the UV levels are the highest.
- Wear a hat and cover up with sun-protective clothing.
Skin is the largest barrier against infection that we have. Keeping your skin healthy and shielding it from the harmful rays of the sun can help you look younger and prevent skin cancer. So, play it safe and smart – screen up!