We love a bright, sunny day. Engaging in outdoor activities is great for our health, our mood, our social lives, and the community—but it’s not so great for our skin. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US and worldwide. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop a form of skin cancer by age 70.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer: sunscreen, protective clothing, etc. But how can we be sure we are using these methods correctly? Here are the three most common mistakes we make when trying to prevent sun damage and how to correct them.
1. Not Using Enough Sunscreen
A quick swipe of lotion is likely not enough to offer adequate protection against sun damage. To ensure you are using enough sunscreen, experts recommend at least one ounce of sunscreen per application. To visualize one ounce, think of a shot glass or around two tablespoons of lotion.
Be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects your skin from both UVB and UVA rays. There are numerous sunscreen products to choose from; select one that is waterproof and offers at least 30 SPF (sun protection factor), and reapply it every two hours.
2. Misjudging Cloudy Days
True or false: Damaging UV rays aren’t as strong on cloudy, overcast days.
The answer is “False”! The clouds may filter sunlight, but clouds cannot protect you from UV rays. Also, weather conditions may change throughout the day. For instance, what starts as an overcast morning can quickly turn into a scorching, sunny afternoon. You want to be prepared for any type of weather.
Here’s a rule of thumb: Always apply sunscreen before going outside. Always. And be sure to pack a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing.
3. Not Using Sunscreen with Sun-Protective Clothing
Selecting the ideal clothing is an effective way to reduce the risk of sun damage. There are a number of clothing lines that use fabric specifically designed to block harmful ultraviolet rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) says to look for clothing labeled UPF, which stands for ultraviolet protection factor. According to the SCF, “The number indicates what fraction of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the fabric. A shirt labeled UPF 50, for example, allows just 1/50th of the UV radiation to reach your skin.”
However, sun-protective clothing cannot prevent sun damage by itself. Experts recommend using sunscreen as added protection against UV rays. The SCF warns, “Any clothing leaves some skin exposed, so you need sunscreen, too. Don’t forget to apply it to your hands, especially after washing them.”
A beautiful sunny day is waiting for you. Answer the call! Just don’t forget the sunscreen and protective clothing before you go.