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If you’re like most people, you use sunscreen every day. But do you really need to?
This article explores the science behind how much sunscreen you should be using, as well as how much sun exposure is safe and what to do when you’re not sure.
Don’t let the sun catch you out!
Why Should You Use Sunscreen?
Most dermatologists agree that sunscreen should be worn daily, even if you don’t plan on spending much time outdoors. (1)
Some of the most important reasons you need sunscreen are:
- To reduce the risk of skin diseases: Ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are responsible for skin diseases including skin cancer, can penetrate through clouds and glass, which means you’re exposed to them even when you’re not sitting directly in the sun. (2)
- To reduce the risk of health conditions: UV rays have been linked to several health conditions, so it’s important to do everything you can to protect yourself from them. Wearing sunscreen is one of the simplest and most effective ways to do this. (3)
- To reduce the chances of sunburn: Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause sunburn. Sunscreen is an effective way to prevent it. (2)
- To prevent aging: Exposure to harmful UV rays can lead to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Using sunscreen regularly can help beat some of the ill effects of aging. (3)
- To reduce inflammation: Too much time in the sun can cause your skin to become red and inflamed. Using sunscreen regularly is the simplest way to combat this. (4)
A lot of different sunscreens are available, so it can be daunting to choose the right one. However, as long as you make sure it has an SPF of at least 30 and provides broad-spectrum protection (it protects against both UVA and UVB rays), you should be good to go. (3)(4)
What Is the Best Way to Apply Sunscreen?
There are conflicting opinions on whether or not sunscreen should be worn every day, but if you do choose to wear it, there are application techniques that will ensure optimal protection.
When applying sunscreen, be sure to use a generous amount and cover all exposed skin. It is also important to reapply every 2 hours or more often if you are sweating or swimming.
To get the most protection from your sunscreen, apply it 15–30 minutes before going outside. This will give the sunscreen time to sink into your skin and create a barrier against the sun’s harmful rays. (5)
What Type of Sunscreen Do You Need?
A few different types of sunscreens are available, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
- Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, contain active ingredients that work by reflecting and scattering sunlight away from the skin. These ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
- Chemical sunscreens rely on active ingredients that absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat, which is then released from the skin. (6) These ingredients include avobenzone and oxybenzone.
So, which type of sunscreen is right for you?
- If you have sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts, physical sunscreens (sunscreens that create a white cast before being absorbed into the skin) are good options since they don’t contain potentially irritating chemicals. However, they can be a bit more difficult to rub in.
- If you prefer a lighter-feeling sunscreen, chemical sunscreens (which are absorbed immediately and then absorb UV rays, convert the rays into heat, and release them from the body) might be a better choice. (6)
- No matter which type of sunscreen you use, be sure to reapply every 2 hours (or more often if you’re swimming or sweating) for optimal protection. (7)
- Alternatives: Some people prefer to use natural products containing aloe vera, turmeric, red clover, or avocado. Some others prefer synthetic inorganic compounds such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide. (8)
- Other measures you can take: Use clothing such as scarves, sunglasses, and hats to protect yourself from the sun.
How to Protect Your Skin While Indoors
Most people believe that they only need to worry about protecting their skin when they are outdoors, but this is not the case. The sun’s UV rays can penetrate glass, so you are still at risk of skin damage when you are indoors. (9)
Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect your skin while indoors:
- Apply sunscreen before going outdoors. Even if you are just going for a walk around the block, it is important to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to exposed skin.
- Wear protective clothing. If you know you will be spending time outdoors, make sure to wear clothing that covers your skin, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Seek shade whenever possible. When you are outdoors, try to stay in the shade as much as possible to minimize your exposure to UV rays.
- Use window film or curtains. If you have large windows in your home or office, consider using window film or curtains to help filter out UV rays.
Most-Asked Questions About Using a Sunscreen
I have sensitive skin. Are there natural options available for me?
Most sunscreens available today are thoroughly tested and dermatologically approved. However, if you wish to use natural sunscreens, you can choose products containing aloe vera, turmeric, red clover, or avocado.
How much sunscreen should I use?
The amount of sunscreen you need to use depends upon the amount of skin exposed. You need to ensure that all exposed skin is covered with sunscreen.
Mineral sunscreens take some time to be absorbed into the skin and can leave a whitish cast for some time, so you need not think that you are using too much. If the sunscreen does not get absorbed even after 15 minutes, then you may be applying too much. (6)
When should I apply sunscreen?
Apply sunscreen whenever you step into the sun, but you still need to use sunscreen as part of your facial skin care routine even if you work from home. You should apply sunscreen on exposed skin at least 15 minutes before stepping out into the sun. (9)
Sunscreen is an important part of any skin care routine, whether you’re spending a day at the beach or just running errands. It’s important to choose a sunscreen that is right for your skin type and activity level and to reapply it every 2 hours or as directed on the bottle.
With so many sunscreens on the market, it can be hard to know which one to choose, but this article has narrowed down the field to the best sunscreens for every need.