The Importance of Sunscreen: How to Select, Apply, and Use It Correctly
Now that warm weather’s finally upon us, it’s important to remember that while we may love the outdoors, going to the beach, and how we look with a tan, there can be serious consequences to extreme amounts of sun exposure, including skin cancer.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and the leading cause of death from skin disease. It can spread rapidly, particularly among people with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and red or blond hair. The risk of developing melanoma increases with age, but it also frequently affects young, otherwise healthy people.
Risks for melanoma include the following:
- Living in sunny climates or at high altitudes
- Long-term exposure to high levels of strong sunlight, because of a job or other activities
- One or more blistering sunburns during childhood
- Use of tanning devices
- Unprotected sun exposure is dangerous
Sunlight consists of ultraviolet (UV) rays, as well as related rays such as UVA and UVB.
- UVA rays are present throughout the day and are the most important cause of premature aging of the skin. UVA rays are responsible for photosensitivity reactions and contribute to skin cancer.
- UVB rays are most intense from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and are most responsible for sunburn and skin cancer development.
Increased exposure to UV radiation occurs nearer the equator, during the summer months, at higher elevation, and during peak daylight. Reflection from the snow, sand, and water increases exposure, a particularly important consideration for beach activities, skiing, swimming, and sailing. You can limit dangerous exposure and help prevent burns and long-term damage by covering exposed areas when possible, by wearing a hat, and using the wide variety of sunscreens available in most stores and pharmacies.
When to apply sunscreen
- For best results, apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun, so that it can be absorbed by the skin and less likely to wash off when you perspire.
- Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or strenuous exercise.
- Apply sunscreen often throughout the day if you work outdoors, and wear hats and protective clothing.
How to apply sunscreen
- Shake well before use to mix particles that might be clumped up in the container. Consider using the new spray-on or stick types of sunscreen.
- Be sure to apply enough. Use an ounce (a handful) to cover your entire body.
- Use on all parts of your skin exposed to the sun, including the ears, back, shoulders, and the back of the knees and legs.
- Apply thickly and thoroughly.
- Be careful when applying around the eyes.
Contributed by Mike Lance