Guide to Effective Sunscreen Use

Updated July 1, 2022
Woman applying sunscreen to man's back

It's never too late to start protecting your melanin; with skin cancer being a leading cause of cancer-related deaths around the world, it's important that you establish an effective protectant routine before kicking off your summer vacation. Take a look at what makes sunscreen so important and get some tips for how you can get the most out of whichever brand of sunscreen you choose.

Why Do You Need Sunscreen?

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding skincare is that the darker your skin is, the less likely you are to need to wear sunscreen. Unfortunately, the harsh effects of the sun attack all skin tones and colors, and prolonged exposure to the sun will age your skin faster. The best way you can protect your skin from sun spots, rapid aging, and skin cancer is to apply a daily sunscreen to your face and body.

Anti Aging Benefits

Vanity is often what makes a person turn to the sun and also away from it. There continues to be a tanning culture that encourages people who don't naturally have richly pigmented skin to seek alternative means to get it. This can involve spending hours in the sun or within a tanning bed. However, concentrated periods of sun exposure are very dangerous and shouldn't be taken lightly. If you must have that sun-kissed glow that some people are born with, try sunless tanners instead.

Health Benefits

Perhaps the most important reason to consistently wear sunscreen is your health. Your health is at risk every time you spend extended periods of time in the sun without sunscreen on. Just one serious sunburn in your life increases your risk of getting skin cancer by 50 percent. If you add more sun exposure, you increase that percentage. So, to protect yourself from the damaging UVA/UVB rays, you'll need to wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 every day.

Since you don't have to be sunburned to suffer damage, you should wear sunblock even on overcast days. Skin cancer is not something to be taken lightly; melanoma is a potential killer. It is also vital that you protect your kids with a high-quality sunscreen since most of the damage to your skin comes before the age of 18. Good habits learned in childhood will protect your children for life.

Sunscreen Ingredients

While UVA rays cause skin cancer and wrinkles, UVB rays will burn your skin, meaning that the sun's beams pack quite the punch. An effective sunscreen protects your skin from both.

The SPF number on the bottle is important, but it doesn't encompass all of the characteristics you need to know about a sunscreen you might want to try. The SPF explains what level of sunburn protection is offered, but what it doesn't tell you is how many UVA rays are getting by and damaging your cells, whether it's formulated for sensitive or dry skin, and so on.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, several ingredients which offer protection against both types of rays include:

  • Avobenzone
  • Benzophenones (oxybenzone)
  • Cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate)
  • Ecamsule
  • Salicylates
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Sinc oxide

While not all of these are necessary, at least one must be on the "active" ingredients list for the product to be truly effective. You can order great sun protection products online or just shop at your drugstore for convenient types of sun protection in brands you already trust.

Popular Sun Screen Brands

Here are some trusted names in sun protection. You can find these products at your local drugstore or online.

  • Coppertone: This leader in sun protection offers sunscreen for all skin types and for children.
  • Banana Boat: Look for sunscreens for the entire family, plus a variety of tanning and after-sun products.
  • Neutrogena: This skincare company carries a wide range of award-winning sun protection for the face and body.
  • SkinCeuticals: Among this company's many sun protection products is a color-infused formula for the body.
  • California Baby: Go natural with these non-chemical, organic sun protection products for the whole family.
  • La Roche-Posay: This renowned skincare company's dual protecting sunscreen lines includes products tailor-made for every type of skin.
Woman putting suntan lotion on

How to Apply Sunscreen

Aside from making sure that you establish a sunscreen routine, it's also vital that you make sure you're properly applying the sunscreen to get its full protective effect. Here are a few tips for putting your sunscreen on right the first time around.

  • You should apply sun protection at least 20 minutes prior to going outside. Try to avoid exposure to sunlight between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM as much as possible, as this is the point in the day where the sun's rays are the strongest.
  • Apply sunscreen when you're not wearing clothes to avoid sunscreen stains.
  • Don't skimp on the sunscreen. You have to liberally apply it to your face and body in order to reap the benefits. Your efforts to rub in your sunscreen every morning are pointless if you don't use enough to cover your body/face properly.
  • When outdoors, reapply your sunscreen every few hours throughout the day.
  • Waterproof sunblock isn't completely water resistant, so reapply more frequently if you're swimming or surfing.
  • One more rule to remember: 15 + 30 does not equal 45. In the sunscreen world, the numbers act individually. You can't add numbers to come up with a higher level of protection.
Mother holding baby son applying face cream in mirror

Sunscreen Never Goes Out of Style

Make protecting your skin from the sun a year-round goal; don't just relegate sun protection to the summer. Introduce moisturizers and lip products that have an SPF into your daily routine for added protection and don't forget to encourage the ones you love to be proactive concerning their skin. Your diligence will pay off with healthier, younger looking skin.

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Guide to Effective Sunscreen Use