Sunscreen, SPF, Broad Spectrum protection, not a day goes by when the importance of protecting our skin from the sun’s damaging rays doesn’t come up somewhere. It can be really confusing to figure out just what is what these days. And the rules seem to change as time goes by. So, what’s up with sunscreen?
We hear a lot about the importance of wearing sunscreen. It’s been drilled into our heads that without it we can burn our skin, experience the signs of premature aging and, of course, there’s the risk of getting skin cancer. There isn’t a dermatologist, beauty magazine or skincare TV commercial these days that doesn’t tout the importance of wearing sunscreen or other protective products. SPF products seem to come in all forms, from clothing to cosmetics. But everything we read isn’t necessarily the truth. Let’s break down some common sunscreen myths and get the facts straight once and for all.
No matter how dark or light skinned you are, sunscreen is important. Everyone’s skin has the potential to burn, the potential to prematurely age and the potential to develop skin cancer when left unprotected. Don’t believe for a second that if you have dark skin you can skip the sunscreen. Everyone, regardless of their skin color, should wear sunscreen on a regular basis.
I used to get very excited at the idea of having my sunscreen needs covered by my makeup. Talk about being lulled into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, what I learned was the opposite. Foundations, blush, bronzing powders, all seem to contain SPF these days but it isn’t enough. Makeup with SPF is usually applied unevenly. Think about the quick dusting of blush, or the little dab of foundation we often apply. It’s simply not enough coverage to offer appropriate protection. While it is a nice added benefit for those areas that do get ample coverage, it’s most important to double up on our protection and use a sunscreen as well. Opt for a daily moisturizer with SPF 30. You’ll get added moisture and protection in one easy step.
The FDA guidelines for sunscreens have become more stringent over time. The newest regulations prohibit companies from using the term “waterproof” on their sunscreen products. The appropriate labeling is “water resistant.” With the term water resistant, companies must now designate whether the product is protective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. You must reapply at least every 2 hours, and even more frequently if you are swimming or sweating. It’s easy to forget about reapplication when you are having fun at the beach or pool. Keep your sunscreen in a visible place so it doesn’t go unnoticed. If you just can’t seem to make it happen, put a reminder on your phone or other mobile device to prompt yourself. If you are like me, the sunscreen may be tucked away in my beach bag but my phone is never far from sight.
If you have skin that’s exposed, it needs sunscreen. This includes your feet, ears, back, arms, legs, neck… If it’s an exposed body part, it needs protection. I’m always most concerned about my face, because I want to keep those fine lines and wrinkles at bay. But after close inspection of my body, I had a very rude awakening. My shoulders have many dark spots on them, as does my cleavage area. Even my legs are riddled with sun damage due to my youthful sunscreen neglect in pursuit of the perfect tan. I have become obsessive about the backs of my hands and now keep sunscreen in the cup holder in my car. If it can be seen, it needs sunscreen!
Sunscreens contain the same active ingredients, whether they are for kids or adults. If you’re looking at two products with the same sun protection factor, whether for kids or adults, the protection is comparable. There are different types of formulations, however, and many sunscreens made for children focus on gentler formulas developed for more sensitive skin. They can be fragrance free, chemical free, paraben free and more. Many products for kids are tear-free to avoid any stinging of the eyes.
If you have a leftover bottle of sunscreen from the year before, do yourself a favor and throw it away. First and foremost, if you’re using sunscreen every day, you won’t ever have left over product. A good rule of thumb is to not treat your sunscreen as a seasonal product, but realize its importance year round. Always check the expiration dates on your bottles. The dates can be found on the label itself or embossed into the crimped edge of a tube. Nothing lasts forever and sunscreens will lose their effectiveness over time. Pay attention to expiration dates, and make sure you’re slathering on something that will actually protect your skin.
With all of the information readily available, it’s a no-brainer when it comes to understanding the importance of using sunscreen. Be sure to use it every day, even when it’s cloudy outside. And keep your kids protected as well. If you’re still a non-believer when it comes to sunscreen I have a dare for you. I want you to stand in front of a mirror and drop your pants. Yes, drop your pants! Take a close look at your derriere. Unless you sunbathe in the nude on a regular basis you will definitely see how much lighter, wrinkle free, and sun-spot free your tush is. It’s the perfect before and after for sun exposure right on your own body.