After what seemed like another long winter, summer is finally here! Before you head outside to soak up some of that Vitamin D, we wanted to go over some facts about sunscreen and covering up, and explain the benefits and challenges of each.
To start, everyone should be wearing sunscreen at least on their face every day, no matter what. But how much protection are you getting from daily sunscreen use? That all depends on the sun protective factor (SPF) and if the sunscreen is “broad-spectrum,” which means that it protects against UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens that are less than SPF 15 and are not broad-spectrum are able to prevent sunburn, but they are not protective against skin cancer or skin aging. So, it is important to look for sunscreens that are at least SPF 30 and broad spectrum. With that, no sunscreen is 100% effective. This is because it acts as a filter and cannot block all UV rays, even if used correctly. For example, sunscreens with a SPF of 100 only filter out about 99% of UVB rays.
Sunscreen is also not as effective if you are not applying enough, which is a common mistake. The recommendation is at least one ounce (about a shot glass worth) to all exposed areas of the body and reapply every 2 hours to maintain protection. If you are swimming or sweating excessively, you should reapply even sooner. That amount of sunscreen application can be tough when you are on the go!
Lastly, most sunscreen products are only good for 2-3 years, and those that have been exposed to extreme heat conditions (e.g. your car’s glovebox) can become less effective. So, make sure you are not using that BB cream from 4 years ago that you got on sale at Target, it likely is not providing the same protection it once did.
Most clothing can provide some level of UV protection, so if you are unable to wear sunscreen on exposed body parts, it is recommended to “cover up.” The most effective types of clothing are those that are dark colored and tightly woven, which are not usually the types of fabrics one likes to wear during summer months. Some companies have started to make sun-protective clothes that are light-weight and provide protection even when wet. These types of clothing can get expensive, but if you are planning to go hiking on a sunny day, for example, and do not feel like reapplying sunscreen every 1-2 hours, it could be a good investment. As a rule, you can get an idea of how much protection you are getting from your clothing if you can see light through the fabric. If light can get through, so can UV rays.
Other ways to cover up when outside is to wear a hat and sunglasses. Sunglasses protect not only your eyes, but also the skin around your eyes (warding off crows feet just a little bit longer). Baseball caps can protect the top and front of your head, but leave your neck and ears exposed, so consider also wearing a bandana around your neck (Madewell has some cute ones in their stores right now!). Straw hats are also not usually as protective because they are not tightly woven, so it is better to wear a hat with tightly woven fabric that has at least a 2-3 inch brim, or a “shade cap” with fabric on the sides and down the back for better protection.
In summary, neither option provides 100% protection against skin cancer, so you should do your best to use a combination of both. You should wear sunscreen on your face every day, weather it is underneath your make up or if you have found a moisturizer that contains at least an SPF of 30 in it. Add on a cute wide brimmed hat and some sun protective clothing and you are ready to head outside and protect yourself from skin aging and cancer!