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Shedding Light on 7 Sunscreen Myths

Dermatologists debunk common misunderstandings about sunscreen.

Sunscreen Myth #4: A little sunscreen will see me through the day.

"The general principle is to reapply every two to four hours," Spencer says. "Sunscreen does go away with time."

Don't be stingy when you're putting it on yourself or your children. "To cover your whole body, you would have to fill a shot glass," Stein says. "A good way to conserve sunscreen is to cover up with clothing. Clothes are more reliable than sunscreen -- you don't have to worry about forgetting about it or reapplying it."

If you get into the water, you may need to reapply more often.

The FDA doesn't allow sunscreen makers to claim that their products are "waterproof" or "sweatproof," or identify their products as "sunblocks" because, the FDA says, those claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens can claim that they are "water resistant," but they have to specify how long that lasts.

You may also want to check on whether your prescriptions make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Certain blood pressuremedications can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and so can some antibiotics, such as doxycycline, which is an oral antibiotic used to treat acne. Be sure to talk to your doctor about this," Stein says.

Sunscreen Myth #5: I put sunscreen on my face, arms, leg, back, and neck -- so I'm set.

Not so fast. You may have overlooked some key areas.

"The ears and the back of the neck are commonly neglected," Stein says. "You can actually get sunburn on your scalp, so wearing a hat is a good way to get protection. It will also shade your face, and that will give you good face protection."

Don't forget about your lips. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30.

Sunscreen Myth #6: Lotions, sprays, or stick sunscreens work differently.

"There are no real major differences; these are just vehicles for the sunscreen and it depends on what the consumer likes," Spencer says.

"Men often do better with alcohol-based sprays because they don't like greasy products. Women often do better with lotions and creamier products because they like the moisturizing effect," Spencer says. "There are many different sunscreen products to choose from. What's most important is compliance -- if you like the product, you're more likely to use it."

Whatever kind of sunscreen you choose, the American Academy of Dermatology says to put it on dry skin 15-30 minutes before you go outside.

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