7 Sunscreen Tips to Save Your Skin This Summer

MakenzieR on 18 Jul 2014 at 4:15pm

Woman Applying Sunscreen

Summer's almost here, and you know what that means: outdoor festivals, backyard barbecues, and days at the beach! Unfortunately, there's nothing like a sunburn to put a damper on the fun, not to mention leave behind some pretty unsightly tan lines.  

However, there's more to using sunscreen than preventing crazy patterns and itchy skin. Any time a RealSelf user asks our doctor community how to prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging, their #1 tip is to wear sunscreen daily. Not only is UV radiation the most common cause of facial aging, but 90% of skin cancer is caused by exposure to the sun. (An even scarier statistic is the fact that one in five Americans are expected to develop the disease in their lifetime.) 

You may think avoiding UV damage is always as simple as "my moisturizer has SPF 15," but there's far more to it than that. To help you avoid the risks of too much exposure, we turned to dermatologist Dr. Susan Van Dyke and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) to bring you these seven facts about proper sun protection:

Kiehls SPF 50

1. Anything greater than SPF 50 provides the same protection

"A 50 SPF blocks 98.00% of UVB light (the burning rays) while a 100 SPF will block 99.00%,” says Dr. Van Dyke. “This level of benefit [to either] is of course contingent on applying enough and reapplying frequently."

2. Makeup and moisturizers with sunscreen aren’t always enough

Unless your makeup/moisturizer provides broad spectrum sunscreen and is reapplied throughout the day, it isn’t enough protection for all day sun exposure. According to ASDS, it’s fine if “you are only walking to your car from work or going into the store. But if you are going to spend a few hours outdoors, then you need to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen."

3. You need to reapply every 2 hours

"The active ingredients in sunscreen break down when exposed to UV light," says Dr. Van Dyke. "To maintain the SPF on the label, you need to keep reapplying as the ingredients lose effectiveness: every 2 hours, more often if you sweat or swim."

4. You should use one ounce to cover your whole body

According to ASDS, “Research shows that many people put on about half of the amount of sunscreen they need, so be sure to lather it on." And don’t forget the sensitive skin on your lips: Use lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher.


5. It’s not a free pass to suntan all day

"Sunscreen is not 100% even in the best of cases," warns Dr. Van Dyke. "Realistically speaking, few of us follow guidelines perfectly. If you really want to save your skin, the best approach is to use sunscreen, cover up (hats, sunglasses, SPF clothing), and seek shade."

6. Tanning oil with SPF 10 doesn’t count

“Less than an SPF of 15 doesn't protect you from the cancer-causing side effects of sun exposure,” says Dr. Van Dyke.

7. Don’t wait til you’re in the sun to apply

“Sunscreen should be applied one-half hour before going outside, giving the skin time to absorb it,” says ASDS.

The next time you're picking out sunscreen, here's what you should look for:
  • Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide
  • Minimum SPF 15, ideally 30-50
  • Broad spectrum UVA/UVB (UVB causes burns, but UVA is also damaging to the structure and health of skin)
  • Water resistance if you'll be swimming or sweating

Photo credits: Courtesy of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery; Some rights reserved by KatieJean97; Some rights reserved by Brandon Warren