As Americans, most of us have worn sunscreen our entire lives.
Most of us can remember waiting for our parents to slather us in creamy, white, coconut-scented lotion before donning our floaties and jumping into the cool summer waters.
Like many things we learned as children – such as making our bed, tying our shoelaces and brushing our teeth – we develop a routine for getting it done. But sometimes, without even knowing, we get it wrong and develop bad habits.
The consequences of a poorly made bed or knots in our shoelaces aren’t dire. But if you make these 10 sunscreen mistakes, the price could be high – especially if you’re in the harsh summer sun of the state of Mississippi.
“We see patients every summer with bad sunburns and damaged skin as a result of making one or more of these sunscreen mistakes,” says Dr. Richard Price of Price SkinCare Clinic of Ridgeland, Mississippi. “We can’t underscore enough how important it is to avoid making these sunscreen mistakes and use protective sunscreen correctly. It will not only help prevent sunburn but will help prevent skin cancer.”
Here are the 10 most common sunscreen mistakes made and how NOT to make them.
Mistake #1: You rely on your clothing for sun protection
Just because you’re covered head-to-toe in clothes does not mean you’re safe from the sun. T-shirts only have an SPF of about five which means you can burn through your shirt. Other clothes you might wear to the pool clothes are often light and airy to keep you cool. The sun can get through those as well. Apply sunscreen everywhere and then dress. Better to be safe than sorry.
Mistake #2: You’re Sunscreen is Expired
It’s a little known fact that sunscreen can go bad and lose its effectiveness. When you purchase sunscreen, check the expiration date and make sure it has plenty of ‘life’ left. If you don’t see an expiration date on it, take a magic marker, write the date on the bottle and if it’s still around after a year, throw it away. And don’t leave your sunscreen out all summer by the pool in direct sunlight. The summer sun can cause certain types of sunscreen to decompose. You don’t want to slather that on you either!
Mistake #3: You Use the Highest SPF Possible
High SPF products often have more chemicals than low SPF sunscreens. These can cause allergic reactions, tissue damage and even hormone disruption. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. This blocks about 97 percent of the sun’s rays and minimizes issues that higher SPFs can cause.
Mistake #4: You Don’t Apply Early Enough
Most of us don’t get out the sunscreen until we get to the water. That’s about 30 minutes too late. It takes time for the skin to absorb the lotion and start working so apply sunscreen at least half an hour before stepping out into the sun.
Mistake #5: You Don’t Apply Often Enough
If you’re out in the sun all day – or even just for several hours – one application is not enough. Sunscreen can sweat off or wash off over time – even if the label says it won’t. To be safe, reapply sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or swimming.
Mistake #6: You Apply Too Conservatively
Trying to conserve and save money, many of us apply less than half of the recommended amount of sunscreen to exposed skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you use one ounce of sunscreen for the body and another teaspoon for the face – each time you apply. This is a case where more is more!
Mistake #7: You Don’t Apply Sunscreen to the Hard-to-Get-to Places
Going for the arms, legs and torso are the easy sunscreen targets. But those places further away from your thoughts can burn just as easily. Remember to coat your ears and eyelids, the back of your neck and any other place that your skin will inadvertently see the sun. And don’t forget your lips. They’ll burn too.
Mistake #8: You Think SPF Make-Up is Enough Protection
You saw make-up at the make-up counter advertising its SPF and you thought, ‘I can look good and be safe from the sun at the same time.’ Think again. It’s usually not enough for effective sun protection so apply sunscreen to your face and then apply your makeup.
Mistake #9: You Fail To Protect Your Eyes
Sunglasses aren’t just for displacing the glare while you’re enjoying the outdoors, they also protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. The best protection you can buy are those with UV protection. An extra tip: just because you wear sunglasses with dark lenses doesn’t mean your safe. Without the protective coating, they can let more UV rays in which can lead to cataracts.
Mistake #10: You Don’t Use Sunscreen In The Winter
Snow-covered ground – just like white sand on a beach – can reflect the sun’s rays onto your skin and burn you. So just because it’s cold, don’t leave the sunscreen at home. You can burn just as easily on the ski slopes as you can behind a ski boat.