8 Tips and Hacks for Getting the Most Protection From Your Sunscreen
We all know we should wear sunscreen every day no matter what, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, hot, or cold. But more than 50 percent of Americans never apply sunscreen, perhaps because it takes time and can cause messy hands, smelly bodies, and acne breakouts. Since protecting our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays can prevent skin cancer, wrinkles, and liver spots, read on for ideas to make wearing sunscreen a breeze.
1. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS.
Some sunscreen manufacturers engage in deceptive marketing tactics that can confuse customers. If you’re using a subpar sunscreen, you can't be confident in your choice of skin protection. Choose a mineral-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen (containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) with an SPF between 30 and 50. Check the date to make sure your sunscreen hasn’t expired, and apply it to your skin 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside for maximum effect. Sunscreen companies use different scents and amounts of oil, so experiment to find a smell and texture you like.
2. WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING.
Don't rely on your sunscreen (and your willingness to reapply it properly) alone for protection. Invest in sun-protective clothing, made with fabric that blocks UVA and UVB rays, or wear regular long-sleeved shirts, lightweight pants, and full coverage hats when you’ll be in the sun for long periods of time. Pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson told Today that she supports wearing sun-safe clothing as a way to reduce the amount of skin that needs sunscreen—for both you and your kids. “Then, in areas of their body you can't cover with UV protective clothing, that's when we think, yeah, we want you to use sunscreen and use it judiciously,” she said.
3. KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN.
Many people’s sunscreen aversion stems from the fact that applying the lotion leaves your hands feeling gross and oily. Instead, consider applying with a cotton ball or cotton pad. Squirt sunscreen on a cotton pad, spread it over your face and body, and then dispose of the cotton pad. Or try a roll-on, powder, or spray sunscreen, which can also help keep your hands clean. If you use spray sunscreen, remember to close your eyes and hold your breath while applying it so you don’t inhale harmful chemicals.
4. LINK IT TO ANOTHER MORNING HABIT.
If your current morning routine doesn’t involve sunscreen, you can change that without too much effort. Immediately after you complete a task you do every morning—brushing your teeth, making coffee, or taking a shower—apply sunscreen. This will make it easier to remember to do so.
To cut down on steps, consider using a cleanser or moisturizer with SPF protection. Just make sure that the products you use have ample SPF, and bring a regular sunscreen with you so you can reapply during the day.
5. COVER YOUR EYES AND LIPS.
Don't forget to shield your eyes and lips from the sun. Get in the habit of wearing sunglasses whenever you go outside, and make sure your shades have broad-spectrum sun protection. Wearing the right sunglasses will help lower your risk of getting skin cancer on your eyelids or melanoma on the retinas in the back of your eyes.
And your lips may look different than the rest of your face, but they’re skin, too. Wear a lip balm with ample SPF protection every day. Dermatologist Marla Klein, who treats patients at Klein Dermatology & Associates in Oregon, tells Mental Floss that she often sees patients who have protected their faces with sunscreen but not their lips. “Many people have chronically chapped lips, which is how actinic cheilitis presents in the clinic," she says.
6. STEP INTO A SNAPPYSCREEN BOOTH.
SnappyScreen is an automated booth that covers you in sunscreen in just 10 seconds. Currently available at a handful of resorts in the U.S. and Caribbean, SnappyScreen may head to public pools, water parks, and beaches in the future.
7. VISUALIZE WRINKLES AND SCARS.
If the health benefits of wearing sunscreen aren’t sufficient motivation for you to wear sunscreen daily, think about your future appearance. Visualize your face with sun spots, wrinkles, and melanoma scars to deter you from inaction. “UVA rays change the elasticity of your skin … [without sunscreen,] you’re going to get more wrinkly and you’re going to look older, faster,” Swanson says to parents who want to motivate their teenagers to wear sunscreen.
8. BE STRATEGIC ABOUT TIMING.
Depending on where you live, UV rays are stronger at certain times, usually between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If possible, spend less time outdoors (in direct sunlight) during those peak hours. Check UV Index maps and forecasts for your area to plan your outside time for when it's safest.
This piece originally ran in 2016.