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The Right Rules of Sunscreen

Sunscreen Safety

Because an estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, sunscreen is a critical component of skin and health care. Besides helping to deflect those brown spots and dreaded wrinkles, its use will allow you to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays… the ones that promote those dangerous skin cancers, like melanoma. Sun protection is literally in your hands.

The key is to not only wear sunscreen but to apply it properly. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology used a state fair to examine proper and improper sunscreen use.

Complimentary sunscreen dispensers were prominently placed at 10 of the fair’s information booths. Of the 2000 subjects, only 33 percent of people applied sunscreen to all their exposed skin. The balance of the fair attendees studied only used it on their faces and arms.

One of the study authors, Dr. Ingrid Polcari, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School stated, “People were most likely to ignore their legs. For too many people, sun protection is not a priority. They either underestimate the risks of the sun or find sunscreen a hassle or too messy.”

Sunscreen: How Much and How Often

Sunscreen is not an impenetrable suit of armor. You can get 24-hour protection from plenty of products, but sunscreen is not one of them. According to a professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. David J. Leffell, “Once it’s on the skin, sunscreen begins to chemically wear down, and after a couple of hours it becomes less effective.”

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends reapplying every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. As far as the amount most people need for every application, it should be enough to fill a shot glass. If you are wearing a bathing suit so more skin is exposed, you’ll want to use a full ounce or roughly the size of a golf ball of product.

The AAD also offers helpful baseline tips for selecting the ideal sunscreen. They say, when selecting a sunscreen, make sure the label says:

Broad spectrum: The words “broad spectrum” means that the sunscreen can protect your skin from both types of harmful UV rays — the UVA rays and the UVB rays.

SPF 30 or higher: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you select a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher.

Water resistant: Dermatologists also recommend that you look for the words “water resistant.” This tells you that the sunscreen will stay on wet or sweaty skin for a while before you need to reapply. Water resistance lasts either 40 or 80 minutes. Not all sunscreens offer water resistance.

When Should I Wear Sunscreen?

We are the most vulnerable to these injurious UVB rays between the hours of 10 and 4. According to, about 5% of the UV rays that reach the ground are UVB rays. They:

  • Damage the outermost layers of the skin
  • Directly harm DNA
  • Cause most skin cancers
  • Contribute to skin aging prematurely
  • Are partially absorbed by the ozone layer, but some rays still get through

Even outside of those hours and year-round, we are still being exposed to UVA rays which are also capable of destruction. Approximately 95% of the UV rays that reach the ground are UVA rays. They:

  • Have higher wavelengths, but lower energy levels than other UV rays
  • Can be absorbed more deeply as they are more penetrating than UVB rays
  • Are the main type of light used in tanning beds
  • Can penetrate windows and clouds
  • Are not absorbed by the ozone layer

Essentially, any time during the daylight hours during any season is prime time for sun damage to shine.

More Sun Protection Tips

  • The lyrics to the old song by The Temptations are true, you’ve “got sunshine on a cloudy day.” Do not let those fluffy vapors that obscure the sun fool you. The sun is a powerful star. Its UV rays will still reach your vulnerable skin even when the skies are overcast.
  • Understand that the higher the SPF does not equate to its effective time. While an SPF of 50 blocks about 98 percent of UV rays, SPF 100 blocks only 1 percentage more. You’re not increasing the wearable time with a higher SPF either. You still need to apply just as much as you would with any product, and just as often.
  • Use your sunscreen, even if you’re just going out for a run. You are not only at risk when you’re sunbathing, but any time you have any prolonged exposure to the elements.
  • Know your family history. Although everyone regardless of heredities or skin pigmentation needs to use sunscreen, you will want to be aware of genetic predispositions for a complete medical history.
  • Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a wide-brimmed hat either. Besides being stylish, it is the perfect accessory to go with your sunscreen and suit!

Is It Too Late to Start Wearing Sunscreen?

Although you should add an annual visit to a board-certified dermatologist to your calendar, the experts at Consumer Reports say that even if you didn’t wear sunscreen while you were younger (when many used to believe that most skin injury was already done), the opposite is actually true. You will continue to need sunscreen throughout your life. And even more so as your body and its skin ages:

For years, experts wrongly believed that people got most of their sun exposure before age 18. Here’s the reality: By age 40, you’ve racked up only half of your lifetime dose of UV rays; by age 59, just 74 percent. And for those older than 50, being in the sun without adequate protection can be particularly dangerous. Your body begins to lose its ability to repair the cell damage created by the sun’s rays, and your immune system weakens, making you even more susceptible to skin cancer. Bottom line: You’re never too old to use sunscreen.

At the end of the day, unlike a slow cooker, sunscreen is not a “set it and forget it” practice. Taking an active approach to its application will enable you to safely enjoy your backyard swimming pool and all the outdoor activities you love so well!

As home improvement financing solution experts since 1979, we are serious sun worshippers! We too love our pools and the great outdoors. That’s also why Lyon Financial loves the difference we can make for your family by providing something that puts years of memories within reach. Call 877-754-5966 for more information.