The summer months are upon us which means warmer weather, long days at the beach and bonfires with your friends. When spending any time outdoors it’s important to remember to always apply your sunscreen to help better protect your skin. Keep reading to learn about the seven most common sunscreen mistakes!

1.     Only applying sunscreen when you are spending time outside

Make sunscreen a part of your daily routine 365 days a year. Even on days, you are spending little time outside, you are still being exposed to UV light, such as when you are sitting near a window or driving in your car. Even on cloudy, cooler days, UV light is passing through the clouds and will damage unprotected skin.

2.     Not using enough sunscreen

Most people only apply 25-50% of the amount of sunscreen used during testing of sunscreen use. As a result, they are only getting one-third the sun protection that is on the label on the product. For instance, if you are using a sunscreen with an SPF 30 and are using an inadequate amount, you are actually only getting an SPF 10.  Make sure to apply a teaspoon of sunscreen per body part (e.g., 1 teaspoon for the face and neck, 1 teaspoon for each arm).

3.     Using expired sunscreen

Check the expiration labels on your sunscreen. The chemical ingredients become inactive over time. Also, avoid storing sunscreen in your car for prolonged periods of time. Although it initially sounds nice to have sunscreen available in your car, the hotter spring/summer months can cause the active ingredients in the sunscreen to break down, rendering the sunscreen less effective.

4.     Not applying sunscreen to critical areas

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your ears, lips, front and back of the neck, backs of hands, and tops of feet. Exposed skin on the scalp (such as your part line) is another commonly missed area. To apply sunscreen to the scalp, you can use a spray sunscreen. Spray the sunscreen on to your hand and then apply to the bare skin on the scalp.

5.     Not reapplying sunscreen during the day

Regardless of how high the SPF number is, all sunscreen lose their effectiveness after 90 to 120 minutes. Therefore, be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours when you are doing outdoor activities.  There are now sunscreens that come in a powder form such as our Colorescience mineral brush on sunscreen that you can carry in your bag. These types of products make it easier to reapply sunscreen during the day.

6.     Getting a mild tan at the beginning of the season to “protect” skin

There is no such thing as a “healthy tan”. Even a “light” or “mild” indoor or outdoor tan will result in UV damage to skin cells. If you desire a tan, then use a topical sunless tanning product. Be sure to choose a product that lists dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is an FDA-approved skin-coloring agent, as one of the main active ingredients. DHA interacts with amino acids in dead skin cells, thereby producing a color change. If the product does not contain DHA, it may contain a tan accelerator, which can speed up UV-induced sun damage. Also, continue to practice diligent, daily sun protection (including sunscreen application) as the “fake tan” does not provide protection against UV light.

7.     Not using spray sunscreens correctly

Spray sunscreens are a good option, especially when you are spending longer periods of time outside and need to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. The key is to using spray sunscreens properly. Of the different spray sunscreens, I have used, I am a big fan of Elta MD Aero Spray as it is broad-spectrum, water-resistant and has an SPF 45. In addition, it is fragrance-free, oil-free, paraben-free; hence, it is great for patients who have sensitive skin. Another feature I like about this sunscreen is that it is not greasy and is easy to use. Follow the tips below when using a spray sunscreen.

  • Hold the spray a couple inches from your skin. After spraying a layer of product onto your skin, massage the sunscreen into the skin
  • Apply the sunscreen to each part of the body separately. For example, spray sunscreen on one arm and rub it in thoroughly, before applying sunscreen to the other arm.
  • To use spray sunscreen on your scalp, face, and/or neck, first spray the product into your hand, then apply the product to the desired body area.
  • Apply two coats of sunscreen to ensure adequate coverage. Apply sunscreen to the entire body, and then repeat.
  • Avoid applying spray sunscreen in a windy area, as the product will be dispersed in the air.

Now through June 30th, enjoy 15% off select sunscreens!

Have a sun-safe summer everyone!

Cheryl Gustafson, MD