May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and according to data from the Skin Cancer Foundation, the number of new melanoma cases is expected to rise by nearly 8 percent in 2019.
So this is a fitting time to discuss some of the most common mistakes that people make when applying sunscreen and how to fix those bad habits to lower your risk of skin cancer and signs of aging.
Mistake #1: Not wearing a sunscreen every day
If you do not wear an sunscreen every day, it can’t protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. A little bit of sun exposure every day adds up.
There are a variety of SPF options available that are safe and effective for even sensitive skin types, so there is no reason not to wear sunscreen. Many of my female patients now use a daily tinted SPF instead of facial foundation. For daily use, choose at least an SPF of 15. Do not rely on SPF in your makeup. It is better to use a tinted sunscreen.
Mistake #2: Using the wrong type of sunscreen
You have probably heard of the recent legislation aimed at banning certain chemical sunscreen ingredients that have been shown to damage coral reefs. The Florida Keys recently passed such a ban.
When possible, choose sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, the two ingredients in question in the ban.
The SPF 15 that you use every day is not strong enough for prolonged exposure. If you are going to be in direct sun for more than 20 minutes, choose an SPF of 40+ and reapply every hour. You should choose water-resistant SPF if you’ll be swimming, boating, or sweating a lot.
Mistake #3: Relying on SPF in makeup
Unfortunately, makeup foundations and facial powders that contain SPF do not provide adequate sun protection on their own. This is because the amount used in studies is much higher than the amount an average person applies.
You would need to apply 14 times the normal amount of powder and seven times the normal amount of foundation to achieve the SPF on the label. While you can still use these products to boost your SPF protection, always pair them with a standalone sunscreen.
Lip balms that contain SPF are a great choice for the lips. These can help to lower your risk of developing skin cancer on your lips, since the skin in this area is thin and does not produce its own natural antioxidants.
Mistake #4: Not applying enough sunscreen
If you do not apply enough sunscreen, you won’t be getting the maximum SPF protected listed on the bottle. Always apply ½ teaspoon of sunscreen to your face, and one ounce (think a full shot glass) to your body.
If you are outside all day, I recommend that you reapply sunscreen at least every hour, or after swimming or sweating.
Mistake #5: Missing common areas
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to commonly missed areas, like the tips of your ears, the back of neck, your hairline, the part of your hair on your scalp, the back of your hands, and tops of your feet.
Wearing sunscreen on a daily basis is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer and accelerated skin aging. Keep these tips in mind when applying SPF this beach season!
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