You’ve heard it a million times before. If you’re heading outside on a sunny day, you should absolutely wear sunscreen. The question is: Why? What is it about this lotion that makes it so critical to our health and well-being?
Lately, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not sunscreen is good for you. Let’s take a look into the risks you take when you don’t wear it, and get a few insider tips on how to make sure it’s applied correctly.
Why Should You Wear Sunscreen?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should wear sunscreen every day because UV radiation is harmful to your skin. Exposure to the sun could cause sunburn, wrinkles, age spots, eye damage, and even skin cancer.
None of us want to risk any of these skin afflictions or ailments, yet there are still not enough people regularly wearing sunscreen. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 80,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year. A good sunscreen that is made with safe ingredients and contains at least SPF 15 is your best defense.
The peak times when the sun is the strongest is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You should avoid being exposed to the sun during this time window.
What Are the Different Types of Sunburns?
You might be shocked to hear that a sunburn can happen in less than 15 minutes after being outside. The longer you are in the sun, the more damage that could happen to your skin without sunscreen.
The different types of sunburn you can experience include:
1st Degree Sunburn
A 1st degree sunburn is the most common type, with your skin turning bright pink or red. This type of sunburn is painful and burns hot, but it usually fades away after about a week.
2nd Degree Sunburn
You will be in a bit more pain if you suffer a 2nd degree sunburn. This is when little blisters form that can get itchy or infected. It takes a bit longer for this type of burn to heal since there is more damage.
3rd Degree Sunburn
If you suffer a 3rd degree sunburn, you’ll be in need of immediate medical care. Be on the lookout for warning symptoms, like your skin turning red or purple with a lot of blisters and sores. You may also experience nausea, heart trouble, a fever, or dehydration.
4th Degree Sunburn
It’s no surprise that a 4th degree sunburn is very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. A sunburn of this magnitude will require surgery, and you could experience long-term damage and an extended hospital stay with medication.
Despite how painful they can be, sunburns are unfortunately pretty common among every age group. The CDC reported these numbers:
The goal is for those numbers to continue to be lower as new sunscreen regulations are put into place. Be aware when you’re heading outside and make sure to always keep a good sunscreen with you. If you do get burned, look for the symptoms and reach out to your doctor if needed!
*DISCLAIMER: Beautyepic is not a healthcare provider. Speak directly to a medical professional if you have any questions about how to treat a sunburn.
Do You Need to Wear Sunscreen If You Don’t Burn?
Everyone should wear sunscreen, regardless of whether or not you burn. It may seem surprising, but there’s no such thing as a “healthy tan.” Your skin is simply not supposed to change colors due to the sun, or any other UV radiation for that matter!
If you absolutely must have that bronzed bod, try a self-tanning spray or cream instead. You can typically find these at most retail stores, and you get the peace of mind knowing many of these sprays are approved by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
According to most dermatologists, you can get sunburned on a cloudy day. Up to 80% of the sun’s rays can pass through an overcast.
Which SPF is Best?
Dermatologists and healthcare professionals generally agree that a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher is best for defending against UV rays. However, it’s important to note that the higher you go in SPF, the better you’ll be protected from the sun.
Just take a look at a test published in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology:
199 participants were asked to use a different SPF on each side of their face – SPF 50 on one side and SPF 100 on the other. The next day, the researchers measured the sun damage present on each side.
The result? 55% of the participants were more sunburned on the SPF 50 side than they were on the SPF 100 side. This doesn’t mean SPF 50 is bad necessarily, but it does prove that the higher you go in SPF, the more protected you’ll be from the sun.
How Do You Apply Sunscreen?
You don’t want to cut any corners when it comes to putting on sunscreen. After all, doing it improperly could mean that you risk getting burned and causing damage to your skin.
Here are the steps you should take when applying sunscreen:
- Shake the bottle.
- Apply 15 minutes before you go outside.
- Put on the sunscreen before you get dressed.
- Use enough sunscreen – be prepared to use at least 1 ounce of sunscreen every day.
- Dot the sunscreen onto your face and apply thoroughly.
- Protect your lips and eyes.
- Don’t forget to cover tattoos and scars.
- Cover every inch of your body, including forgotten areas like the scalp, ears, and feet.
1. Shake the Bottle
Consumer Reports recommends that you shake the bottle before you apply the sunscreen. This is a good way to distribute the active ingredients throughout, providing you with optimal protection.
2. Apply 15 Minutes Before You Go Outside
The FDA reports that you should apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside. This gives the lotion time to sink into your skin and work its magic before you’re exposed to UV rays.
3. Put on the Sunscreen Before You Get Dressed
Do you have a beach trip planned? Keep your bathing suit off until you’ve applied sunscreen from head to toe. This is the best way to make sure you’re getting every inch of your exposed skin.
4. Use Enough Sunscreen
People only apply about 25% to 50% of the sunscreen they actually need according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). You can fix this by making sure to use about a shot glass amount of lotion for your entire body.
5. Dot the Sunscreen on Your Face
Rather than squeezing the lotion onto your hand and rubbing it onto your face, place little dots on your forehead, chin, and each cheek. From there, use your finger or a makeup sponge or brush to swirl the dots around.
6. Protect Your Lips & Eyes
Make sure you wear lip balm that contains at least SPF 30. The FDA also recommends wearing sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Look for a pair that covers your eyes from top to bottom.
7. Don’t Forget Tattoos & Scars
You don’t want your beautiful body art to fade in the sun. Be sure to thoroughly cover your tattoos with at least SPF 15. The same goes for any scars you have on your body, which are extremely sensitive to sunlight and can burn very easily.
8. Cover Every Inch of Your Body
It’s super easy to miss certain places when applying sunscreen. Below you’ll see a full list of commonly overlooked areas.
Commonly missed areas when applying sunscreen:
- Tips and back of the ears
- Sides of the face
- Back of the neck
- Under the arms
- Behind the knees
Be alert when applying your sunscreen and don’t forget these troublesome spots!
How Often Should You Reapply Sunscreen?
You should reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours according to the FDA. Reapply it sooner if you’re doing a lot of swimming or sweating.
If you’re worried you’ll forget, set an alarm on your phone for a reminder. You can also recruit a friend to be the one who yells “sunscreen time” when the two hours is up. It’s really not too time consuming to reapply sunscreen, and afterward you can get right back to fun in the sun!
What Sunscreens Do Dermatologists Recommend?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 15. You can spend less than $20 on a good brand, and find a solution that works well with your skin type.
What Sunscreen is Best for Your Skin Type?
Everybody has a skin type, which is basically a classification of how our skin behaves on a regular basis. You might break out in acne, get dry flakes, or see rashes on your face, but no matter what, you’ll find a sunscreen that’s designed for you!
Here are the best sunscreen recommendations for each skin type:
- Clear, even skin
- Not very sensitive
- Barely any blemishes
Recommendation: You have your pick of the litter when it comes to sunscreen! Choose any brand that you prefer.
- Hard time retaining moisture
- Rough, flaky complexion
- Red patches and visible lines
Recommendation: You want to get a dual moisturizer/sunscreen, or a creamy sunscreen versus one that’s made with gel.
- Shiny, greasy appearance
- Enlarged pores
- Prone to blemishes and breakouts
Recommendation: If you have this type of skin, look for an alcohol-based, oil-free lotion, spray, or gel.
- Skin gets easily irritated
- Often itchy or dry
- Red or breaks out in rashes
Recommendation: A hypoallergenic or mineral sunscreen should be your best friend.
- Mix of oily and dry skin
- Shiny forehead and chin
- Dry cheeks
Recommendation: Try to find a sunscreen that is free from chemicals and is made instead with transparent zinc oxide.
What Sunscreen is Best for the Face?
The best sunscreen for your face is made with a non-comedogenic formula, according to dermatologists. These sunscreens are more lightweight and sheer. They’re also less likely to clog your pores and cause breakouts.
If you’re not already, you should wear sunscreen on your face every single day. The UV rays from the sun can cause spots and wrinkles, which ultimately makes you lose your youthful looks a lot faster.
Should You Wear Sunscreen on Your Lips?
You should definitely protect your lips with at least SPF 15. This is because your lips are extremely sensitive to the sun and could dry out or blister from constant exposure.
You don’t necessarily have to smear sunscreen lotion all over your mouth. Look for a lip balm that contains SPF, whether it’s in a traditional tube or a stylish egg-shaped container. Make sure to apply and reapply while you’re out and about in the sun.
What is the Best Chemical Free Sunscreen?
A survey conducted by Consumer Reports found that almost 50% of people are looking to buy sunscreens that are made with natural ingredients. This means the sunscreen is chemical-free and safer for coral reefs and the ocean.
The following brands make chemical-free sunscreens:
- Alba Botanica
- Babo Botanicals
- Badger Balm
- Blue Lizard
- Drunk Elephant
- Juice Beauty
- Sun Bum
Many well-known brands, like Coppertone, Banana Boat, and EltaMD, also make organic, chemical-free sunscreens. Shop around and find the option that works best for you!
The terms “baby” and “sport” are marketing terms only. They aren’t really a reflection of how gentle the sunscreen is on your skin, or well it works while you’re sweating or swimming.
Are Sunscreen Sprays Effective?
Sunscreen sprays can be just as effective as lotions if they contain SPF 15 and have “broad spectrum” on the label. The only difference is that it’s sometimes more difficult to make sure you’re using enough spray on your body, which is why they’re not as highly recommended by dermatologists.
If you are interested in wearing spray sunscreen, make sure you’re putting it on properly.
Here’s how to apply spray sunscreen correctly:
- Hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray generously. Make sure you’re using about an ounce to cover your entire body, including hard-to-reach areas.
- Rub the spray on your body for at least 10 seconds to make sure you have a nice, even layer.
- Do not spray directly on your face. Spray it on your hands instead and then rub the solution on your face, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
- Reapply often. You should spray on more sunscreen at least once every 60 to 90 minutes.
Keep in mind that sunscreen spray should not be used on a windy day, and it’s also highly flammable. In fact, the FDA warns that you could get seriously burned, so don’t bring spray sunscreen to your next bonfire!
Can I Mix Sunscreens?
You can mix one brand of sunscreen with other sunscreens without any issue. However, you shouldn’t mix sunscreen with non-SPF products like lotion, creams, skincare products, or foundation. This could make the formula less effective at blocking your skin from harmful UV rays.
Your best bet is to look for an SPF moisturizer, and if you do apply skincare products, put your sunscreen on last. You want it to be your last layer of defense before you head out the door.
What Should You Look for When Buying Sunscreen?
There are many sunscreens on the market, which is why you should look for the best possible options. You want to make sure they check all the boxes and will keep you protected.
Here’s what you should look for when buying sunscreen:
- SPF 15 or higher (preferably SPF 30)
- “Broad Spectrum” printed on the label
- List of ingredients that are safe for your skin
- Water-resistant formula
- High number of ounces
- Good price that you don’t mind paying
SPF 15 or higher
When applied correctly, an SPF 15 sunscreen will block about 93% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 will block 97% of UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the better!
Your skin will be covered from both UVA and UVB rays if you choose a brand that has “broad spectrum” on the label. UVA rays are what cause aging, while UVB rays cause burns.
List of Ingredients
The sunscreen’s ingredients are very important. For instance, if you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to avoid irritating chemicals like para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone.
There is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen. They may only be water-resistant, which means they will protect your skin 40 to 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. This is a good feature to have, especially if you’re heading to the beach or water park.
Number of ounces
What’s the point in only buying a small pocket-sized sunscreen? Make sure your lotion lasts the entire summer by going with a larger bottle. After all, you are supposed to use 1 ounce of sunscreen every time you wear it.
You’re not made of money! Shop around and find a sunscreen that is not only effective, but also good for your budget.
Don’t just grab any old sunscreen and throw it into your shopping cart. Take the time to read the labels, and make sure the brand you choose checks all of the boxes.
Does Sunscreen Expire?
Yes, sunscreen will have an expiration date printed on the bottle. Throw away any sunscreen that’s past this date as it’s no longer effective at blocking your skin from UV rays.
Be conscientious when doing your sunscreen shopping. You shouldn’t go overboard and buy too many bottles at once, and you should plan on shopping for new sunscreen at least once every year.
Can I Use Expired Sunscreen?
Most sunscreens have a shelf life between two to three years. According to the FDA, you can continue to use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next, as long as it’s within the date of expiration.
Still, that isn’t to say that you should try to make the same bottle last. According to Dr. Lauren Ploch, a board-certified dermatologist:
“Expired sunscreen may be better than no sunscreen at all, but it’s better to borrow sunscreen from someone else on the beach or go to a nearby store to buy something.”
If you shop for new sunscreen once a year, you’ll never have to worry about it expiring. You are supposed to be using a liberal amount of sunscreen every time you apply it, anyway. With that in mind, you should be running out of sunscreen every year!
The Bottom Line
Are you ready to get outside? Make sure you apply sunscreen on every inch of your body, including those troublesome areas like your feet, neck, and lips. This is true no matter what your skin type and even if you don’t burn. Fun in the sun starts with the right sunscreen!
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