A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Safeguard your skin with sunscreen

Illustration of a variety of sun screen bottles - Safeguard your skin with sunscreen

Make using sunscreen a habit to protect your skin from early aging and skin cancer.

How can you protect your skin from early aging and skin cancer? Your best defense lies in the palm of your hands.

Make using sunscreen a habit.

“You have to apply and reapply for the best sun protection,” said Dr. Lawrence Scherrer, Marshfield Clinic dermatologist. “Try various brands and formulations, and choose the sunscreen you don’t mind using because if you don’t like it, you won’t use it.”

More sun-block tips

If you’re not a fan of sunscreen or need additional tips, consider:

  • Face and body stick sunscreens. Sunscreen sticks, which look much like sticks of deodorant, are convenient. Quickly cover visible skin by rubbing the stick on your skin.
  • Just the right amount. People rarely apply enough sunscreen, Dr. Scherrer said. Use 1 teaspoon per arm and 2 teaspoons per leg, chest and back.
  • UPF clothing. Outdoor clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) ratings are made to be breathable and cool. Sun protective clothing can be helpful for children who dislike topical lotions or adults with sensitive skin.
  • Broad-brimmed hats are in. Grab a brimmed hat for sporting events or summer gatherings to create your own shade and sun protection.
  • A protective pill. Though research is still being conducted, there are pills, like Heliocare®, with natural extracts to help skin protect itself. “I don’t recommend taking Heliocare® regularly,” he said, “but it’s a nice addition to sunscreen for a tropical trip or an extended sunny vacation.”

Choosing the right sunscreen

Dr. Scherrer recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen of 50 SPF or higher.

As far as “chemical” versus “physical” and gels, lotions or sprays, the choice is yours.

Chemical sunscreens contain special ingredients to reduce UV penetration to the skin.

Physical sunscreens contain fine particles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to block UV radiation.

I can’t stress this enough. The best thing you can do is find a sunscreen you like and get in the habit of applying it,” Scherrer said. “Once you’re in the habit of using sunscreen, you’ll start to feel naked when you forget to apply it.”

Applying and reapplying sunscreen

“I like to use a cream or lotion in the morning before my hands and body are sweaty from the heat,” Scherrer said. “Then, reapply with a spray – something easier to use on-the-go.”

Waterproof and sweat-proof sunscreens also should be reapplied. Read individual sunscreen directions for reapplication instructions.

“Regardless of sunscreen claims, anything you apply in the morning will be gone by afternoon,” he said.

Take care of your skin

Consider this: 10 minutes per day in the sun is 60 hours of sun exposure per year.

“Sun exposure accelerates aging, increases risks of cancer and causes wrinkles,” Scherrer said. “Be smart and take care of your skin.”

More sun protection posts from Shine365:

Could my rash be a sun allergy?

Fun in the sun? Wrinkles, age spots for the long run

Holy moly: 5 signs of a melanoma mole

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