Health Topics

The Benefits of Using Sunscreen

Sunscreen is the easiest way to protect yourself from the sun’s dangerous rays. However, application isn’t just rubbing it on when you’re at the beach. There is a lot for you to learn about sunscreen and which is best for each time you are out in the sun.

How Should Sunscreens Be Applied?

Sunscreens are very effective when used properly. Follow these guidelines to give yourself the most protection:

  • Apply the sunscreen at least 20 to 30 minutes before you go outdoors, whenever you will be exposed for 30 minutes or more.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 3 hours while you are outdoors, even if the product is labeled "all-day." If you are getting a lot of sun or perspiring heavily, reapply sunscreen every hour or two.
  • Cover all exposed areas, including your ears, lips, face and back of your hands.
  • Don’t skimp; make sure to apply a generous layer. Smooth it on rather than rub it in.
  • Women should apply sunscreens under makeup. If you wait to apply sunscreen until you hit the beach, you may already be perspiring, and moisture makes sunscreens less effective.

Who Should Use Sunscreen?

Anyone who spends time outdoors should use a sunscreen. This includes men, women and children; people who tan easily and those who don't; fair-skinned and dark-skinned people; people who already have tans; sunbathers, gardeners and skiers. Sunscreens are safe for children and can prevent skin cancer from developing later in life.

What is SPF in a Sunscreen?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. The SPF number tells you how well the product will protect you from UVB, the burning rays of the sun. The higher the SPF number, the greater the amount of protection. Everyone should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you have had a skin cancer or precancers, you should use a sunscreen with an even higher SPF.

I Don't Burn Very Often. Does This Mean I Can Use a Sunscreen With a Low SPF?

Even if you don’t burn very often, you should still use sunscreen. You also want to reduce damage from the sun. Your skin can be harmed by constant sun exposure, whether or not you see a burn. Sunburn is an immediate reaction, but damage from the sun occurs over a lifetime. If you have had a skin cancer or precancers, you should use an SPF of 15 or higher.

My Skin is Sensitive. Should I Skip the Sunscreen?

Some sunscreens contain ingredients that may irritate the skin. If you know you react to specific ingredients, check the contents on the label. You can also ask your dermatologist to recommend a sunscreen.

However, the sunscreen may not be causing the reaction. Other products that come into contact with your skin, including perfumes, certain medications and soaps. may make your skin more sensitive. Think about the products you have been using (especially new products), and stop using them one by one before you stop using the sunscreen. If you are not sure about the side effects of a medication you are taking, consult with your doctor or local pharmacist.