Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, there’s no better time for a refresher on sun protection and how to find the best sunscreen for your skin, especially as we’re gearing up for summer fun here in the Midwest.
Gone are the summers when we slathered ourselves in baby oil and Sun-In to soak up every last one of the sun’s rays. These days we’re more likely to grab a hat and sunscreen on our way out the door after becoming more aware of what the sun can do to the appearance of our skin as well as our overall health.
But even with all the preventative measures we take, are we still doing enough to save our skin from the sun?
The American Academy of Dermatology reports that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and more than 96,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, this year alone. In fact, melanoma is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in young adults, especially women.
Understanding the differences between sunscreens
Many people are surprised to learn that there are two different sunscreen formulations on the market – chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens. A chemical sunscreen protects you by absorbing UV rays and then releasing them from the body while a physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin to reflect the sun’s rays.
While both sunscreens offer FDA-approved SPF protection, a physical sunscreen is optimal since it’s not absorbed into your skin. It’s also excellent if you’re participating in a high-impact activity, like swimming or running. Colorescience products have at least an spf 20 so is extremely convenient for daily wear to replace your makeup. Colorescience’s total protection line also protects from blue light, infrared radiation and other harmful environmental stressors.
What to look for in your sunscreen
When shopping for a sunscreen, it’s best to be choosy. There are endless options available, but the sunscreens that will best protect you from the sun feature the following three benefits:
- Broad spectrum protection – Your sunscreen should defend your skin against both ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which penetrate deep into the skin to cause premature skin aging, and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer.
- An SPF of 30 or higher – SPF, or “sun protection factor,” measures how much skin-burning UVB the sunscreen will filter out. Regardless of your skin color, dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30, which will block 97 percent of UVB rays.
- Water resistance – Although there’s no such thing as an FDA-approved “waterproof” sunscreen, a “water resistant” formula will stay on wet skin for 40 minutes while a “very water resistant” formula will last 80 minutes.
Although sunscreens are recommended for almost anyone, they should not be used on infants under six months of age as the chemicals can be dangerous to their delicate skin. Until they’re old enough for sunscreen, it’s best to keep them out of the sun.
How to best apply (and reapply!) sunscreen
When it comes to sunscreen, we’re in full-on defense mode at the ballpark, pool or lake, but when it comes to daily use, we tend to let our guard down. For those with fair skin, just 15 minutes—the time it takes to walk the dog around the neighborhood or weed the garden—is all it takes for a skin-damaging sunburn to occur.
Before you head outside this summer, spending just a few extra minutes on sun safety can protect you for years to come.
- Apply sunscreen indoors – Sunscreen, especially chemical sunscreens, need at least 15 minutes to be absorbed into the skin. Waiting until you’re in the sand or pool chair gives the sun a head start.
- Take a shot – The average adult will need one ounce of sunscreen, approximately enough to fill a shot glass, to cover the body. That includes applying sunscreen to your feet, ears and the top of your head. A brush-on sunscreen with SPF 50, like Colorscience Sunforgettable Brush, can help you cover the delicate areas of your face that a cream may miss.
- Check the expiration date – A bottle of sunscreen should last up to three years. If the bottle is expired, toss it out as the SPF protection is no longer effective.
- Maximize your coverage – Sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating (unless you’re using a water-resistant formula, then every 40 to 80 minutes).
Stock up on sunscreen for the summer
Skin cancer can be life-threatening, but thankfully it’s also preventable. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular daily use of sunscreen reduces one’s risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40 percent and melanoma by 50 percent! By applying a high SPF sunscreen, such as those in the SkinMedica and Colorscience lines from Ooh La La in Glen Carbon, and taking additional steps, including avoiding the sun during 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and wearing protective clothing, you can safeguard your skin all summer long