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10 Things You Need to Know About Sunscreen

woman in sunhat purchasedDon’t let last week’s spring snow fool you. Warm weather is definitely on its way. Unfortunately, those sunny skies can do a whole lot of damage to your skin if you don’t protect yourself with a good sunscreen (seriously, this is non-negotiable!). To help you choose the right one and to make sure you soak up the sun responsibly, follow these 10 important tips.

Know Your Number

All sunscreens are labeled with an SPF number, which tells you how long you can safely stay in the sun before burning and how well it protects you from the sun’s UVB rays, which cause sunburn. SPF ratings are NOT an indicator of protection from UVA rays, which are responsible for aging.

How frequently you must reapply sunscreen is different for everyone, depending on your skin’s natural protection. To determine how long a particular product will protect you, multiply the amount of minutes you can stay in the sun before turning pink (5-10 min) by the SPF factor. It’s always advisable to reapply before your protection wears off.

How It Works

Physical blocks like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide reflect the UV rays away from the skin. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, preventing skin cells from being affected by the sun’s damaging radiation.

Apply in Advance

Sunscreens should be applied 20 minutes to a half hour before sun exposure for optimal protection.

Don’t Be Stingy

When it comes to sunscreen, a little dab won’t do ya’. The average adult should apply between 2.5 and 3 ounces (about a shot glass full) for adequate protection.

Encore, Encore

Reapply sunscreen every 90 to 120 minutes, or more frequently if you perspire a lot or are swimming. (Hint: Stock up on the stuff next time you’re at the drugstore—you’ll go through several bottles during peak sunscreen season.)

It’s Not Foolproof

Fact: No sunscreen provides 100% protection. Protection from UVB rays range from about 50% (SPF 2) to 97% (SPF 30). Higher than that won’t make much of a difference. Don’t develop a false sense of security.

“Waterproof” Is a Myth

There is no such thing as a truly waterproof sunscreen, despite whatever claims are made on the label. Make sure to reapply after taking that dip in the pool.

Beware of Heights

For every 1,000-foot increase in altitude, the sun’s potency increases. Snow reflects UV rays, so remember to reapply frequently and liberally in higher altitudes.

Kids’ Stuff

Children under six months old shouldn’t use sunscreen. For the best protection, keep infants in the shade and dress them in sun-protective attire.

No Make-ups

Moisturizers and cosmetics with built-in SPF aren’t enough to do the job (and are bound leave you with plenty of unprotected spots, unless you’re into the kabuki look). Treat makeup as an added layer of protection, not your main source.
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