Now that the sun is back for summer, you’re probably thinking of getting your tan on. Make sure you’ve got your sunscreen on too – and not just for the reasons you think. Here are 9 things you didn’t know about your sunscreen.
1. SPF = SUN PROTECTION FACTOR
We throw around the term SPF like a beach ball, but what does it actually mean? SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor,” and the number after it refers to the time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned if you’re wearing sunscreen. So an SPF 15 allows you to stay in the sun 15 times longer without burning than if you were out in the sun for the same time unprotected.
2. THE DIFFERENCE IN SPF IS MINIMAL
The difference between an SPF 15 and an SPF 50 isn’t that big. According to researchers, SPF 15 is about 92% effective in blocking UVB, compared to 98% for SPF 50. The American Academy of Dermatology, meantime, recommends at least an SPF 30. However, don’t think you can just stick to a low number because…
3. YOU’RE UNDER APPLYING
You may think the movies over-exaggerate that slathered-on sunscreen look, but according to doctors, it’s not a bad example to follow. Doctors say most people under-apply their sunscreen, and on average, they are using less than half of what they need. So if you use an SPF 15 and under-apply, it’s like you’re only wearing SPF 7 or 8.
4. KNOW YOUR LINGO
SPF refers to the sunscreen’s effectiveness against UVB rays, but you should also be buying a product that shields you from UVA rays. Look for a sunscreen that says “‘broad-spectrum,” which indicates that it blocks UVA rays as well. This is important because UVA rays cause the most damage when it comes to skin aging and sagging. #NotaGoodLook
5. A BASE TAN DOESN’T HELP YOUR SUNSCREEN
The idea of “pre-tanning” or getting a base tan was thought to help prep your skin for the sun, effectively rendering your sunscreen more effective. The results are in and that… (said Maury style)… is a myth! A base tan from a tanning bed actually leaves you with LESS protection, because you haven’t actually made new pigment. Instead, you’ve just burned up what you already have. If you really want a “base,” choose a tinted sunscreen instead.
6. YOU STILL NEED SUNSCREEN ON CLOUDY DAYS
We all lather up when it’s 90 degrees and scorching overhead, but it’s important to wear sunscreen on overcast days as well. Dermatologists say those aging UVA rays are consistent throughout the day, no matter what the sun condition. And clouds can be deceiving: because they block out the sun, you don’t feel as hot, but that doesn’t mean those harmful UV rays aren’t still there.
Here’s a fun fact: you know how water reflects the sun, so you’re more likely to tan when you’re swimming? Well, it turns out sand reflects 17% of UV radiation too. In other words, you still need to wear sunscreen even if you’re relaxing under an umbrella on the beach.
7. SUNSCREEN KEEPS YOU LOOKING YOUNG
You’re young and beautiful, so keep that up. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine tested 900 subjects in Australia and found that using a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day resulted in 24% less photo aging after four and a half years, compared to just using sunscreen when at the beach or park. Gotta keep that mug in shape!
8. YOU’RE NOT ALLERGIC TO YOUR SUNSCREEN
Some people swear off sunscreen because it gives them a rash or allergic reaction. But while sunscreen allergies do happen, you’re usually more likely to be allergic to the fragrance in the sunscreen, as opposed to the lotion itself. Our recommendation: look for fragrance-free, sensitive skin products, which are way better.
9. SUNSCREEN DOESN’T LET YOU STAY OUT IN THE SUN
At the end of the day, while a broad spectrum sunscreen will protect you against sunburns, it will not completely protect you from all of the sun’s damaging rays. No sunscreen can block out everything. Do yourself – and your skin – a favor, and head indoors for a respite every two hours. Then make sure you re-apply before you step out again.