Five Common Sunscreen Mistakes That Leave You Vulnerable To Skin Damage

You know that exposure to ultra-violet light is what causes skin cancer. That's why you probably avoid tanning beds and slather on the sunscreen before a day at the lake. However, your sunscreen may be giving you a false sense of security. Choosing the wrong type of sunscreen and applying it wrongly can mean that your skin is still becoming damaged, even with a protective layer. The following are common mistakes that you might make with their skin protection.

1. You are not wearing enough.

In order to achieve full body coverage, an adult should use about a full ounce of sunscreen, properly rubbed in. This means, when using lotion-style sunscreen, you should be using around a quarter of the bottle with every application! Most people use about half that amount. Sunscreen protection is measured as SPF (sun protection factor), and most good sunscreens have 20-30 SPF. However, when you don't use enough sunscreen, you don't reap the full benefits of the product's normal protection levels, leaving you open to skin damage, even if you don't get a sun burn.

2. You are not putting it on early enough.

Most people put on sunscreen as an afterthought, just before leaving the car or hitting the beach. However, sunscreen should be applied at least thirty minutes before sun exposure. It takes time for some of the chemicals in the sunscreen to bind to the skin and provide the protective layer. It's especially important to apply early if you're going into water, because you may wash off some of the sunscreen before it has time to reach maximum protective strength. 

3. You are choosing the wrong kind of sunscreen.

For a long time, most dermatologists focused on protection from UVB rays-- the portion of UV light that causes sunburns. However, UVA rays can be just as damaging, even if you don't get a sunburn. These are rays with a longer wavelength that penetrate deeper into the skin, often causing the skin to darken in the sun, giving you a lasting tan. These longer waves are also what contribute to the skin aging and wrinkling faster than normal. Even though the skin hasn't burned, these rays still leave you susceptible to skin cancer later in life. 

For this reason, skip sunscreens that are labeled as "tanning" lotions, and look on the label to make sure you are buying a product that offers broad spectrum protection. This means it has been designed to block both UVA and UVB light

4. You are not reapplying your sunscreen throughout the day.

Just once is not enough. After your initial lather, you should apply sunscreen every two hours (the full ounce). If you get wet, even if you are using water proof sunscreen, you need to reapply immediately after toweling dry. This means that if you spend eight house outside in the sun, you may end up using almost a whole bottle of sunscreen just for yourself.

5. You rely on sunscreen alone.

There are areas on your body that sunscreen just can't reach, like your scalp, or there are places that you miss, such as the tips of your ears, or even your forehead. If you're going to spend a lot of time in the sun, and you won't be swimming, use clothing to protect your body as well. Wear a hat to protect your scalp and face, and choose lightweight, long-sleeved shirts to protect the arms and shoulders. Some companies even make clothing that have built in sun protection, measured as UPF (ultra-violet protection factor). These clothes filter out the light even more effectively than normal clothing. 

For more information about using sunscreen correctly to protect your skin, contact a local dermatology clinic.