You can hardly blame us for wanting to spend time soaking up the sunshine during the summer here—we get so few warm months, after all. And so few chances to sport adorable sundresses, chic shorts and sleek tank tops. But as much as the hot days are beckoning you, remember that those UV rays not only a major cause of aging, they can threaten your health. Find out if you’re committing some of the top mistakes when it comes to your sun-protection strategies.
Sun protection slip-up #1: Not applying enough sunscreen
When you apply your moisturizer, you probably put on a thin layer, but sunscreen is different, says Dr. Afsaneh Alavi, a dermatologist with the Bay Dermatology Centre in Toronto. You want to apply a substantial amount and let it soak in for at least half an hour (if you’re using a chemical sunscreen)—“One ounce (that amount to fill a shot glass) is the amount you need to cover your exposed skin such as your face and hands,” she says. “Studies show that most people apply only 25 to 50 percent of the recommended dose.” A major sign you’re not applying enough? If your bottle or tube of sunscreen lasts you the entire season. Consider that Dr. Alavi says that 85 mL is what you need to coat the entire surface area of the skin for an adult; check your average product size and you may find it really should only last you one or two weeks if you’re applying sufficient amounts.
Sun protection slip-up #2: Not reapplying your sunscreen
Even if you’ve gotten into the habit of applying sunscreen in the morning before you leave the house for the day, are you remembering to reapply? Chances are you’re not, since most people skip this important step. “Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours,” says Dr. Alavi, noting that the sunscreen product is no longer protecting you after this time. She points out how many of us will reapply our hand moisturizer several times a day—you need to be doing the same with your SPF. For your face, you can “touch up” simply by using a mineral face powder, which contains natural sunscreen.
Are you misunderstanding SPF levels? Find out on the next page …
Sun protection slip-up #3: Misunderstanding SPF values
“The SPF value measures the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure it takes to cause sunburn when a person is using a sunscreen in comparison when they do not use a sunscreen,” explains Dr. Alavi. And while higher SPF values (up to 50) provide greater sunburn protection, the difference is not huge. “For example, an SPF of 30 screens 97 percent of UVB rays, whereas an SPF of 15 screens 93 percent of UVB rays,” she explains. Another important thing to remember? The SPF number refers to the product’s protection against UVB rays—and we need to protect against both UVB and UVA.
Sun protection slip-up #4: Believing a tan or one’s naturally darker skin will protect you against a sunburn
“Every person is at risk of cancer with UV exposure—lighter skin more and darker skin less—and tanning does not provide protection against cancer,” says Dr. Alavi.
Sun protection slip-up #5: Thinking you can’t enjoy summer
If you feel your dermatologist is intent on ruining your enjoyment of summer, that’s not the case at all. You simply need to be smart when it comes to enjoying the season:
Apply sunscreen regularly and frequently (Dr. Alavi says to use a broad-spectrum product with SPF 30 or higher that’s water resistant).
• Avoid sun exposure between 10AM and 4PM.
• Seek out shade.
• Wear protective clothes, long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats and
sunglasses. (Perhaps consider this as an excuse to shop for chic new pieces to add to your wardrobe!)