Derm Appeal Blog

Common Sunscreen Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

Despite raised awareness and increased use of preventative measures by the population, skin cancer remains the most common type of cancer in the United States.

Currently, skin cancer is estimated to affect 1 in 5 Americans in their lifetime and about 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each day. It has been found that even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can double a person’s risk for developing melanoma later in life – the deadliest type of skin cancer which kills 20 people each day. Proper skin care and sun protection regimens are vital to preventing the development of skin cancer ultimately leading to a decline of this growing trend.

Sunscreen is the most integral preventative and protective tool against skin cancer and incorrect usage leaves the skin unprotected and significantly more susceptible.

Ultraviolet radiation exposure, the primary risk factor, is easily preventable through proper protection of the skin, however, in a recent survey, the American Academy of Dermatology found that a significant amount of people do not apply sunscreen correctly. Only about one-third of individuals reported applying sunscreen correctly, including the reapplication of a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every two hours.

Most skin cancer cases are easily treatable and preventable with proper UV ray protection. Avoid the five common mistakes below to ensure the efficacy of sunscreen use.

Not Reading the Label

Many people do not read product labels and may end up buying less effective sunscreen. Make sure to read the sunscreen bottle label carefully to ensure the product is broad-spectrum, water-resistant, and has an SPF of 30 or higher for best UV ray protection.

Not Using Enough 

Most people only use about 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen leaving parts of the body exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. Generally, adults need at least one ounce to fully cover the body. Make sure to apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin 15 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours while outdoors, and after swimming or sweating.

Applying Only in Sunny Weather 

According to the AAD, only about 20% of Americans apply sunscreen on overcast days. However, the sun emits harmful UV rays all year long – up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate the skin even in cloudy conditions. Apply sunscreen before going outside regardless of the weather to prevent sun damage.

Using Old Sunscreen

Another common reported mistake is the use of expired sunscreen. The FDA requires sunscreen to retain its original strength for a minimum of three years, after which it should be replaced to ensure maximum sun protection. Discard expired or old bottles of sunscreen and try to buy products with clear expiration labels.

Relying Solely on Sunscreen 

Lastly, relying solely on sunscreen will not guarantee full protection. As sunscreen does not block 100% of UV rays, it is important to seek shade and wear protective clothing as well.

Sunscreen is a vital skin care product with many added benefits aside from skin cancer prevention; it also helps prevent sunburns, premature aging, sun damage, wrinkles, and age spots. Avoiding these common mistakes can help better protect individuals from UV exposure and shift the growing trend of skin cancer prevalence – an issue many organizations are fighting against. With increased efforts from healthcare associations, there is promise of safer sun habits and lowered skin cancer rates around the globe.

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