Many of us enjoy time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. Some of us take precautions to protect our skin from sunburns and skin damage. Most skin cancer diagnoses are caused by an exposure of ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds which triggers mutation in the skin’s DNA. However, if proper precautions are taken, skin cancer is one of the most avoidable forms of cancer in the world. The best way to avoid skin cancer is to apply sunscreen correctly to all skin that may become sun-exposed. Here are some of the common ways that people misuse their sunscreen.
Neglecting to Apply Any Sunscreen at All
As our founding dermatologist, Dr. Brian Matthys, often states, “The best sunscreen available for you is the one you will actually use.” Meaning many people often neglect applying sunscreen to all sun-exposed skin.
In a study conducted by the CDC, only 14.3 percent of men and 29.9 percent of women reported using sunscreen on their exposed skin if they spent more than an hour in the sun1. Of those surveyed, a concerning 43.8 percent of the men and 27 percent of the women never use any sunscreen at all.
People often neglect applying sunscreen to days when the skies are overcast. UV radiation still penetrates the cloud cover even when the sun is not shining as bright. If you are outdoors, even briefly, between dawn and dusk, applying sun protection daily is an important, health behavior.
1(American Academy of Dermatology, 2015) American Academy of Dermatology. (2015, May 19). Study: Most Americans don’t use sunscreen. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org: https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/study-most-americans-don-t-use-sunscreen
Improper Use of Spray-on Sunscreen
Many people purchase the aerosolized, suntan lotion to conveniently spread protection over their exposed skin. The problem is much of the product can be lost in application of the spay. According to the American Academy of Dermatology2 an average person needs one ounce of sunscreen to properly cover their sun-exposed skin. One ounce of the contents of standard sunscreen lotion will fill the volume of a shot glass. Due to its aerosolized nature, it is difficult to determine the amount of spray-on sunscreen is being used.
Even if consumers attempt to spray a full ounce, a portion of what they consume is only propellant. According to the manufacturer’s instructions of most aerosolized sunscreens, the sun tan lotion should be sprayed directly into the hands then rubbed on the skin. If that’s the case, shouldn’t you use a reliable sunscreen lotion instead?
Using the Wrong Kind of Sunscreen
There are many products marketed as “sun protection” for skin. It can easily become overwhelming to select the best one for you in the store or online. Here are some quick tips when picking out proper sunscreen for your skin care needs.
- Sun Protection Factor of 30: Your sunscreen’s sun protection factor, or SPF, should have a minimum rating of 30. For lighter skin people, who are more vulnerable to sun damage, they should consider a SPF rating of 50 or higher.
- UVA and UVB Protection: Protecting your skin from harmful UV radiation should be your sunscreen’s primary function. UV radiation is responsible causing both sunburns and mutating the skin’s cell, causing skin cancer itself. That is why it is important to ensure that the sunscreen product you use is rated against both UVA and UVB radiation. If the sunscreen you are considering does not state, on the package, that it is effective against both UVA and UVB exposure, save your money for a better-quality product.
- Tanning Oils: There are also tanning oils for sale that market themselves as a “sunscreen alternative.” Although a few tanning oils that are available for purchase can have an SPF 15, this is an insufficient amount of sun protection. The primary purpose of “tanning oil” products is focusing UV radiation into the skin to darken it. This is dangerous. Tanning oils will make the user vulnerable to sunburns and cancer-causing skin damage.
- Expired Sunscreen: Generally, sunscreens are affective for up to three years . Some have an expiration date and should not be used past that time. If no date is provided, it’s best not to use any sunscreen that shows its age by varying consistency and coloration. Expired products can greatly decrease your protection from the sun.
- Missed Areas of Skin: Even the most flexible of people would have trouble applying sunscreen to the small of the back. It is best to have a friend or loved one spread sunscreen on those hard to reach spots. Whenever possible, do not neglect any areas that you can reach. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Liverpool, their research participants missed about 10 percent of their face during application of sun protection. Your face is an example of a common place for preventable skin cancer to develop that is very easily reached .
- Not Applying Sunscreen Before it is Needed: Sunscreen should be ideally applied 30 minutes before your sun protection is needed . It can also be reapplied right before activity or going outside. Applying sunscreen in advance of exposure allows time to the product to be absorbed into the skin instead of being quickly rubbed away by clothing or washed away by perspiration or water.
- Infrequently Reapplication of Sunscreen: Even the most sun-conscious person can forget to reapply sunscreen in the middle of an engaging activity like swimming, golfing, or hiking. Sunscreen should be re-applied everyone to two hours or when its protection fades as it gets diluted. This is especially true after vigorous activities which causes you to sweat or swimming. Moisture can diminish sunscreens ability to protect your skin.
We suggest the BurŪV Fitness Tracker for Your Skin, a personal UV sun monitoring Apple Watch wristband. It provides you with real time updates of your time in direct and indirect sunlight. BurŪV factors your individual skin type, activity, and the UV exposure to determine your vulnerability in real time. BurŪV will remind you to reapply sunscreen leaving you free to have fun in the sun and LUV Life Outdoors™.
2American Academy of Dermatologists. (2018, June 12). How to use stick and spray sunscreens. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org: https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/using-stick-and-spray-sunscreens
3Lawrence E. Gibson, M. (2018, June 7). Is sunscreen from last year still good? When does sunscreen expire? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org
4Sarah Lewis, P. (2017, June 17). https://www.healthgrades.com. Retrieved from 8 Most Common Places to Get Skin Cancer: https://www.healthgrades.com/conditions/8-most-common-places-to-get-skin-cancer
5The Skin Cancer Foundation. (2012, May 22). Sunscreens Explained. Retrieved from https://www.skincancer.org: https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-explained
Find Out What the UV Index is in Your Area
The EPA sponsors a helpful tool below that can provide your with information about the UV index in your area. Enter your location information below (i.e., zip code, city, state), then click the green search icon. You will be redirected to the EPA’s web site where the UV index information for your area will be displayed for you.
Use UV index information to help you plan for how much sun protection you need based on your skin type. If you don’t know what your skin type is, click here to learn more.