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Allergies Health Center

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Summer Without Sunburn

Choosing and Applying Sunscreen continued...

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when buying sunscreen:

  • Look for a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • Choose a sunscreen that is water resistant. You’ll still need to reapply it after being in the water, but a water resistant sunscreen should maintain its SPF level at least 40 minutes after exposure to water.
  • Look for a sunscreen that offers protection from UVA and UVB rays. These sunscreens are labeled “broad-spectrum.” Ingredients to look for include ecamsule, oxybenzone, and avobenzone. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide will do the trick too, and may be a good choice for people with sensitive skin.
  • Choose a sunscreen that you like. That will help you remember to use it. Sunscreens are now available in creams, sprays, lotions, and foams, so there are plenty of options to choose from.

But picking the right sunscreen is only half the equation. You also need to use it correctly. If you think you only need to apply sunscreen when you’re at the beach or on sunny days, think again. “It’s good to get in the habit of applying sunscreen every day,” says Kauvar. “Most people get more sun exposure in the course of a day than they realize, even when it’s overcast.”

Kauvar recommends these tips to get the most sun protection out of your sunscreen:

  • Apply the sunscreen about 30 minutes before you plan to go outside. This gives the sunscreen time to be absorbed by your skin.
  • Be generous. The general rule of thumb is about one ounce for each application, and you’ll want to cover all exposed areas of the body. Some often-missed spots include the ears, the feet, and any area of the scalp where the hair is thin. And don’t forget the edges and straps of bathing suits, a common place for burns.
  • Reapply the sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily.

Other Prevention Tips

Wearing sunscreen is a must for summer months. But it’s not the only way to help prevent skin damage while enjoying the great outdoors. Here are some other suggestions:

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