Many of us rely on sunscreen to protect our skin from burns, cancer, and premature aging, but a good number of people may not be getting the expected benefits. Why? Because sunscreen won’t work as it should if you don’t use it properly!
When to Use Sunscreen
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends, “Anyone over the age of six months should use a sunscreen daily.” While this may seem excessive to some, the sun’s rays can cause damage in as little as 15 minutes of exposure.
Be sure to note that “daily” doesn’t just apply to sunny days or to the summer months. We also need the protection of sun block on overcast days and during the winter.
How to Choose Sunscreen
There are so many options in the sunscreen aisle that it can be overwhelming. To simplify the selection process, let’s focus on three important things on the labels.
The sun protection factor (SPF) is basically a measure of how effectively the product protects against the damage (burning) of the sun’s UVB rays. In theory, if you generally burn after 20 minutes of unprotected exposure, an SPF 10 product should protect you for 10 times longer. So you should be able to enjoy the sun for just over 3 hours without burning. SPFs range from 1 to 100.
Then things get a little tricky. The higher the SPF, doesn’t necessarily mean incremental benefits. For example:
- SPF 15 blocks 94% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 45 blocks 98% of UVB rays
- SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays
- * There is no 100% protection.
As the Environmental Working Group explains,
Sunbathers often assume that they get twice as much protection from SPF 100 sun block as from SPF 50. In reality, the extra protection is negligible.
It is not uncommon for a consumer to purchase a very-high SPF product and then apply it sparingly, thinking it is so powerful. This is not the case. You must use the same amount (1 oz.).
While some organizations suggest using a product with an SPF of 15 or more, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
A sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum” provides additional protection from UVA rays, which tend to cause skin damage like spots and wrinkling (as opposed to UVB rays, which cause burning).
According to Mayo Clinic,
Too much exposure to UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light.
Since water can wash away your sunscreen and, thereby, your layer of protection, a water-resistant product can be a safeguard while you swim or participate in other water-related activities. In addition to those words, the label will also indicate a timeframe, from 40 to 80 minutes. After that period, sunscreen must be reapplied.
Other things to keep in mind when selecting a sunscreen include your skin type and where you’re going to use it. Typically, lotion/cream is a better choice for individuals with dry skin, while alcohol- or gel-based products may work better on oily skin. Also, consider choosing a facial sunscreen for that sensitive skin. Often, all-over sun blocks contain ingredients that are too harsh for this area. Finally, gel-based sunscreen or lip balm is recommended for lips.
Read more about natural sunscreens for the face in this post.
How to Use Sunscreen Properly
Once you have a quality sunscreen, be sure to use it correctly so it can do its job!
First, check the expiration date on your product. In general, sun block loses its effectiveness after 3 years.
Before Sun Exposure
- Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin 30 minutes before sun exposure (unless package says more). This allows time for the ingredients to soak in and bind.
- Apply protection to your lips 45+ minutes before sun exposure.
It is critical to use enough―administer it liberally and evenly! The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends 1 ounce, which is roughly a shot glass full.
Be sure to rub thoroughly until you can’t see the white color of the lotion, and get all areas of exposed skin. Don’t forget the ears, tops of feet, neck, part (in hair), back, and top of head if balding. Do not come in contact with your eyes!
For spray application, hold the bottle upright and spray back and forth over your skin in an even, generous coating out of the wind. Don’t inhale the fumes or get in your eyes. For facial application, spray the product into your hands and rub on your face.
Note: Sunscreen use is not recommended for infants younger than 6 months of age! In fact, experts believe infants of this age should not even be exposed to the sun rays.
During Sun Exposure
Once you’ve been outdoors for 15 to 30 minutes, reapply the sun block in the same manner.
You then need to reapply every 2 hours (see label) from there. Or, sooner if you are just getting out of the water.
You should also reapply sunscreen to your lips every 60 minutes, more if eating, drinking or swimming.
This re-application guideline may need to be shortened depending on the intensity of the sun, your skin type, the elevation, or the presence of reflective surfaces like water and snow.
Here are a few of the natural sunscreens that are popular here at Natural Healthy Concepts:
Very Emollient Sunscreen by Alba Botanica
Water resistant (80 minutes)
Certified organic aloe vera, chamomile and calendula
Nourishes and soothes skin
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Cream by Badger
Water resistant (80 minutes)
Good choice for athletes and performance sports enthusiasts like surfers
All-natural and organic ingredients
Face Factor by Kiss My Face
Water resistant (40 minutes)
For the more sensitive facial and neck skin
Aloe vera and green tea base
Nourishes, soothes and restores skin
For everyday nourishment and protection for your face and neck, make this beauty balm part of your daily routine:
Skin Perfecting Beauty Balm by Andalou Naturals
Superfruit antioxidants and botanical moisturizers
Certified organic aloe vera
Age-defying fruit stem cells
Self-adjusting mineral-tint powder
View our entire selection of natural sunscreen products here. You’ll find some great options for your kids, too!
Remember to take other precautions in addition to sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. Mayo Clinic advises,
Whenever possible, also wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants and UV-opaque sunglasses.
Other tips include: finding shade and minimizing exposure between 10am and 2pm.
For added protection, read this post: Nutrients that Can Help Protect You from the Sun’s UV Radiation.
Do you have an interesting story about sunscreen use (or misuse)? Share it in the comments below!