It’s amazing, isn’t it? The sunscreen that disappears as you apply it still protects you from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) components of sunlight. If you’ve ever had a sun-generated handprint or a random, awkward tan line, you know that your lotion is doing the job, even when the application process is less than perfect.
However, it’s easy to get sun protection messed up, and not only because you “missed a spot.” Kudos to you if you’re using sunscreen in the first place. Fewer than 15% of men and 30% of women apply sunscreen regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There’s more to know about the process than simply squirting it on and spreading.
As head and neck specialists, the doctors at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates care about your sun exposure and skin cancer risks. Here are five facts you should know about sunscreen to ensure the best skin protection for yourself and your family.
1. Sunscreen works
Sunscreen protects you from UV light, the component of the sun’s rays that cause damage, including hyperpigmentation (sunspots) and drying of the skin. These rays also create cellular changes that lead to skin cancer, the most common form of the disease. About 20% of Americans have a brush with skin cancer by the age of 70.
2. You need a lot
Economizing is not something you should think about when applying sunscreen. If you’re using anything less than a shot glass full — 1 ounce — you’re not using enough. Most people use only about one-quarter of that amount. Since you should reapply sunscreen every two hours, a family of four should deplete an 8-ounce bottle during a four-hour beach visit.
3. Sunscreen isn’t a solo solution
Sunscreen offers good protection when used properly, but it’s not the only thing you should do to limit UV exposure. Extend the protection your sunscreen offers by choosing and using protective clothing. Wide-brimmed hats and flowing beach wraps are stylish ways to complement the UV-cutting benefits of sunscreen.
4. Timing is everything
Find your spot, plant your towel, and reach for the sunscreen, right? Wrong. It takes time for sunscreen to absorb and offer full UV blocking ability. If you apply it when you arrive at the beach, you could be vulnerable to UV light until your sunscreen absorbs fully. For best protection, your first application should be 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
5. It’s NOT waterproof
Check the label again. It says “water-resistant” not “waterproof.” The Food and Drug Administration no longer permits manufacturers of sunscreens to advertise their product as waterproof because of the mistaken impression it can create. While there’s protection for 40 or 80 minutes (depending on the product), it’s still recommended that you reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating.
Improving your sunscreen habits is the best proactive way to avoid facing sun-related skin cancer. Learn how to check yourself for skin changes that might indicate future problems, and ask the physicians at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates or other health care providers about skin cancer screening.
Early detection gives you the best chance for effective treatment. Call our offices in Lawrence or Ottawa, Kansas, today. You can also send a message to our team here on the website.