Beliefnet
A Prescription for Healthy Living

More than half of Americans make a dangerous summer mistake each year that leaves them highly susceptible to developing skin cancer at some point in their lives. According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology, it has been revealed that most people either do not use, or even misuse, sunscreen. So, you may be thinking: Aren’t all sunscreens created equal? Apparently not. It has been discovered that most people use sunscreen products that contain an SPF that is so low that it is deemed ineffective. When you go through the trouble of applying sunscreen throughout the day, you do not want to end up with sunburn because your SPF was too low or you did not apply enough. Repeatedly exposing your skin to the harmful UV rays of the sun can increase your risk to melanoma, the deadliest of all skin cancers which has risen at an alarming rate, as well as the risk of developing cataracts. So, in order to protect yourself and your loved ones, here are a few tips to ensure you are receiving maximum protection from your sunscreen.

Old School Rule: Glob on a one-inch layer of sunscreen.
New School Rule: Apply a visible layer of sunscreen to the skin.

In order to optimize the amount of sunscreen protection you are receiving from a product, be sure to apply liberally. Most people dab here and there which basically takes an SPF of 30 and breaks it down to an SPF of 10. If you cannot see the sunscreen on your body, then you are probably not using enough. When applying sunscreen, be sure to get such places as the backs of your hands, ears, lips, chest, neck, and the tops of your feet, in addition to the more obvious places as your back and face. Not only are you protecting yourself from developing skin cancer, but sun exposure can also lead to wrinkles, age spots and premature aging.

Old School Rule: The higher the SPF, the better.
New School Rule: You do not need an SPF above 30.

Higher numbers do not necessarily provide better protection. In fact, the most a high SPF number will do is make you think you are better protected than you actually are. These products tend to cost more, and they are actually no more than a sales ploy designed to sell their product. When choosing an SPF opt for a 30 and also choose one that will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, applying an SPF of 15 to your body twice will not give you the same coverage as an SPF 30. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you have been swimming, or participating in activities that result in heavy sweating.

Old School Rule: Applying a little bit of sunscreen will help your body produce vitamin D.
New School Rule: Wear sunscreen every day.

It is safer to take a Vitamin D supplement than it is to intentionally sit in the sun and bake. No matter how beautiful your golden skin may look, it is not worth the possibility of developing melanoma somewhere down the line.

Old School Rule: Cover up with clothing.
New School Rule: Wear a hat and sunglasses.

At least a third of all skin cancers develop above the neck, so protect your face by wearing a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and of course, sunscreen. It is estimated that more than half of all adults do not wear sunglasses while at the pool or on the beach. This is very dangerous as exposure to the sun’s strong rays can cause cataracts. When choosing a pair of sunglasses, opt for shades that are advertised to offer 100 percent UV protection.

Old School Rule: Expensive sunscreens contain higher quality ingredients.
New School Rule: Check ingredient label for possibly hazardous ingredients.

According to an Environmental Working Group study, approximately one quarter of the nearly 800 sunscreens that were tested, actually provide maximum protection without containing potentially hazardous ingredients. Another quarter of that total, including sunscreens designed for children, contain a chemical called retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may actually increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. However, there are nearly 100 brands of sunscreen such as Aveeno and Banana Boat that offer safe sunscreens containing only minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

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