In a lab, sunscreen success is tested according to rigid specifications. These tests measure the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) for UVB protection, and determines how well a product protects against UVA rays, the ones that lead to premature aging and even cancer.
In real life, well…life gets in the way. Do you remember to put on sunscreen before you leave the house, or do you wait until you noticed a red tint before applying? Are you careful to use the recommended one-ounce portion when you wear shorts or a swimsuit? Do you reapply at least every two hours, or do you sometimes lose track of time? Do you always reapply after swimming, or does a sun-warmed towel take precedent?
Six Steps for Sunscreen Success
Sunscreen doesn’t need to be your new hobby, but here are six simple steps to help ensure a burn doesn’t cause you to see red and spoil the fun.
Put on sunscreen before you go outside.
With chemical sunscreen, this is a must because it takes 20 minutes or so for the chemicals to go through a chemical reaction and become effective. This isn’t a requirement for mineral sunscreens since they are effective immediately, but it’s a great precaution. For me at least, nature is distracting, so it helps to know you’re covered!
Make sure you use enough.
The minerals reflect the rays, so they need to be on your skin. Start with a small amount of sunscreen and add more as you need it. This will help ensure you’re evenly covered, without the minerals layering up and leaving a whitening effect. One ounce of sunscreen is recommended anytime you cover large areas of your body, like when you wear shorts or a swimsuit.
Rub the sunscreen in evenly, and don’t miss spots.
Have you ever seen a person who missed a spot or had red streaks? Referring back to being easily distracted, I manage to burn the tops of my feet nearly every summer! Like computers only do what we tell them to, sunscreen only protects where we tell it to protect. A little extra care here will definitely pay off!
Don’t rub the sunscreen off.
For sunscreen to work, it has to be there. If you sit with your legs crossed, you may want to reapply sunscreen to your legs since you could have rubbed it off. If your kids (or you—we don’t judge) are roughhousing and rolling around, they could also rub it off. Minerals sunscreen stays on the skin’s surface. It takes some effort to rub it off, but depending on the activity, you may need to reapply. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, but the sun breaks down these chemicals so they are less effective over time and require reapplication as well.
Reapply after swimming or sweating.
Most of us towel dry after swimming. That means we likely rub off some of the sunscreen. It’s important to choose a water-resistant sunscreen to counter swimming or sweating, and remember, if you’re wiping away water or sweat, you could be wiping off your sunscreen.
Know your limits.
SPF is not a time frame. It’s a multiplier that gives you an idea of the length of time you can spend in the sun. If you start to burn in 20 minutes of direct sun without sunscreen, you should easily be able to follow the two-hour reapplication recommendation if you don’t swim, sweat or wipe it off. If you naturally burn almost immediately, you may need to apply sunscreen a little more often.
Need more tips for sunscreen success?
Learn the best ways to apply mineral sunscreen and the best ways to ensure it goes on sheer and evenly.