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What's the Best Sunscreen?

Wondering what to wear this summer? Get the latest facts before you buy your next sunscreen.

How to Wear Sunscreen

While choosing the right sunscreen is important, it won't help much if you don't use it daily and correctly. Use these tips from the experts.

  • Apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go out in the sun. For woman, sunscreen can be applied under makeup. Use about 1 ounce (or 2 tablespoons) to cover your whole body. Don't skimp. A number of studies show that people simply don't use enough -- and only get 10% to 25% of the benefit. 
  • Don't forget the easy-to-miss spots, like the tips of your ears, your feet, the back of your legs, and, if you have one, your bald spot. Since your lips can also get sunburned, use a UV-protective lip balm and reapply it regularly, Fairbrother says.
  • No matter how long-lasting it's supposed to be, reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, and more often if you're sweating or getting wet.
  • Pay attention to the expiration date on the bottle. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time.
  • Wear sunscreen whenever you're out during the day -- and not only when it's hot and sunny. On a grey, overcast day, up to 80% of the dangerous UV rays still make it through the clouds. And during the winter, exposure to the sun's rays still can have damaging effects on your skin.

 

Sunscreen Isn't Enough

Some people have the impression that wearing sunscreen makes them fully protected against the sun's rays, Lim tells WebMD. But that's not the case. No sunscreen can do that.

No matter how high the SPF, no matter how thickly you slather it on, sunscreen will never fully protect you, experts say. This misunderstanding can be dangerous: people who think they're safe wind up spending too much time in the sun and raise their risk of skin cancer and other problems.

Even your clothes may not protect you. The average cotton T-shirt only has a pitiful SPF of 4, says Leffell.

So in addition to wearing good sunscreen, you still need to take other precautions:

  • Stay in the shade when possible.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Stay inside when UV radiation levels are highest, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the U.S.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, preferably with a UVP (ultraviolet protection rating) on the label. At least wear clothes that are dark and tightly woven, which offer a bit more protection.

Sunscreen works, says Leffell. But protecting yourself against ultraviolet rays requires a lot more than sunscreen alone. And remember that with sunscreen, you need to defend yourself against the sun's rays with both UVA and UVB protection.

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