The dog days of summer are upon us, and people are still heading to beaches and parks in droves to soak up the rays before autumn strikes.
To reduce the chance of developing skin cancer — or just aging skin — it's extremely important to make sure that sunscreen is applied properly. While most people know this in theory, there seems to be a disconnect in how the sunscreen is applied, as the growing rate of skin cancer diagnoses would indicate.
Here are some of the dos and don'ts when it comes to applying sunscreen correctly:
1. DON'T believe the SPF on the label.
In 2014, Consumer Reports led an investigation that found that only two of the top 20 leading sunscreens actually offered the level of protection claimed on the label after being exposed to water. The sunscreens may still offer good protection, but maybe not exactly what's promised on the label. What wasn't clear in the report, however, is why the discrepancy is occurring.
2. DON'T waste money on anything higher than SPF 30.
Sunscreens with an SPF of 100 can cost about twice as much as the same brand with an SPF of 30, but it doesn't provide three times the protection. SPF 30 blocks about 97% of harmful UV rays, while SPF 100 blocks 99%. While it is a difference, it might not be enough to warrant the extra cost. Even a sunscreen with SPF 15 blocks 94% of UV rays, highlighting the fact that the SPF scale isn't as straightforward as many would think.
3. Don't trust waterproof or sweat-proof claims.
There aren't any sunscreens that are totally waterproof or sweat-proof, but there are some varieties that resist being washed off more easily. However, the amount of time they are most effective varies from product to product. These are far from "one and done" applications, and need to be reapplied more frequently.
4. Do apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
Traditional sunscreens that absorb the sun's UV rays shouldn't be applied just before going outside, or, even worse, once a person has already arrived at the beach. The best protection comes from sunscreen that has been applied at least half an hour ahead of time.
Mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide reflect the UV rays and work shortly after application.
NOTE: Why would anyone choose a traditional sunscreen that requires a waiting period over a mineral one that doesn't? Mineral sunscreens do not blend into the skin and will make someone look ghostly white or whatever color the sunscreen has been tinted to.
5. Do make sure to apply enough sunscreen.
No matter what variety of sunscreen a person uses, it won't be effective if it's used sparingly. As per the video, a dollop about the size of a stack of five quarters is good for just the face, while about two fluid ounces (the size of a double shot glass) is required for the rest of the body.
6. Do reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
The effects of sunscreen do wear off over time, particularly when water and sweat are a factor. Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, and likely more frequently if water and toweling off become a factor.
7. Do wear a sun hat.
One of the best ways to make sure that the face and eyes are protected from the sun's rays are to put on a big floppy sun hat. Protective clothing has an SPF of 50 and the effects don't diminish as the day goes on.
[Header image: iStockphoto]