Not wearing sunscreen year-round is one of the most common mistakes people make. It’s important to keep that sunscreen handy no matter where you live or what skin type you have. But saving your sunscreen may not be the answer either. After all, when is the last time you checked its expiration? These are just two of several good tips about the best usage of sunscreen offered by American Well, a tele-health system available 24/7.
Summer may be over, but keep that sunscreen within reach, even if you don’t live in California, Hawaii, Florida or some other sunny state. Dermatologists strongly recommend using a sunscreen year-round for all skin types.
As a southern California native, you would think sunscreen would be my second skin, but I have to remind myself to slather it on when walking, biking or just driving with the sunroof open.
My family’s collection of sunscreen varies from SPF 15 – 50. How much does SPF (Sun Protection Factor) really matter? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, if you use a sunscreen with an SPF 15, you can be in the sun 15 times longer than you can without sunscreen before burning. But note that SPF protection does not increase proportionally with an increased SPF number. An SPF of 15 absorbs 93 percent of ultraviolet radiation while an SPF of 30 absorbs 97 percent and an SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent..
For information about SPF and more, I turned to the experts at American Well, who provided helpful information about the five biggest sunscreen mistakes people make. (Yikes, I’m guilty of a couple of these.)
Thinking you don’t need a lot of sunscreen
Skimping on the sunscreen is dangerous, say Amwell experts. A person’s risk for melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – doubles if you’ve had five or more sunburns. And if you’re only applying a small amount of sunscreen, the actual SPF can be as low as one-third of what it says on the label, making it easier to unknowingly burn in the sun. The average person should apply a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen every two hours to make sure you’re adequately protected.
Not checking if your sunscreen expired
Our house has a collection of sunscreen bottles and tubes in all sizes, and I have never checked the expiration. Most sunscreens are designed to stay at their original strength for up to three years. If the expiration date has passed, chuck that bottle. If the bottle doesn’t have an expiration, toss it anyway. Better safe than sorry!
Amwell recommends writing the date on the bottle when you purchase it. One other thing to consider is where the sunscreen has been stored. If it’s been exposed to high temperatures then it most likely has lost its effectiveness no matter the expiration date. For example, if you’ve left the sunscreen in the car for a long period of time. (Oops, guilty.)
Skipping sunscreen on cloudy days
OK, this I know from personal experience. You can get burned on overcast days, so skipping the sunscreen on a cloudy day is a no-no. In fact, on a completely cloudy day 40 percent of the sun’s UV rays still reach the earth.
Not reapplying or relying solely on sunscreen
For the best protection, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside, and then reapply every two hours. But also make sure to wear a hat and sunglasses, and find shade when possible.
Believing your sunscreen is waterproof
Sunscreens are no longer allowed to claim they are “waterproof” or “sweatproof” on the bottle, says Amwell. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new set of rules which prevents these types of impossible claims. Instead, sunscreens can only claim to be water resistant for either 40 or 80 minutes (depending on test results). So it’s best to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or more if you’re in and out of the water.
If you do happen to get a sunburn and think it’s serious, doctors on Amwell are always available to help. Amwell is a tele-health system that allows you to see a doctor anytime on your iPhone or iPad. Doctors on Amwell are board certified and available 24/7, with no appointment needed.
Free One Time Trial: There is no charge to register for Amwell, and you only pay if and when you use the services. Go ahead and try it on us. Use the code “TMOM” for a free first visit, a retail value of $49. The code is good through December 31, 2015.
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