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Sunscreen 101 - 5 reasons you should make it part of your daily routine

Posted July 19, 2021 by Julie Mark, MD

Child with Sunscreen on their nose at the beach

Did you know skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and men 65 or older are twice as likely to develop melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — than women.

As we head into the summer months, most of us know the importance of wearing sunscreen in the hot, blazing sun. But what you may not realize is the importance of wearing it all year round as a preventative health measure.

Sunscreen protects you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Even on overcast days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can pass through clouds, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. What’s more, snow can reflect the sun’s rays and increase your risk of exposure.

So, when you head outside — whether it’s for a day at the pool, hitting the slopes or just walking the dog — make sure to grab a bottle of sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. Also, check that it’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.

Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside. If you are wearing a swimsuit, the spots near the edges of your swimsuit are the most common areas to miss when applying sunscreen—consider applying your sunblock before putting on your swimsuit or move your straps while applying to make sure you don’t miss these areas. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after getting out of the water or sweating. It’s also important to make sure you use enough sunscreen – adults should use about a shot glass full of cream or lotion per application. Sunscreens that contain mineral-based ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are recommended because they sit on top of the skin, rather than being absorbed, so they are less likely to cause irritation.

If you’re still not convinced you need to lather up before going outside, Summa Health offers 5 top reasons sunscreen is important for your overall health. While we’ve all heard the dangers of the sun, you may not know all the ways it can impact your health.

  1. Decreases your risk for cancer no matter your skin type. The No. 1 reason for wearing sunscreen is to reduce your risk of skin cancer. But it’s not just for those with lighter skin tones. Skin cancer affects everyone, including those with darker skin. Even if you don’t get sunburns, your skin is susceptible to damage from the sun. Using sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days, protects your skin from harmful rays that cause cancer. Daily use of SPF 30 decreases your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent and lowers your melanoma risk by 50 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
  2. Avoid signs of aging. Sun damage is one of the most common causes of premature aging because the rays can damage the collagen in your skin. With sunscreen, you can slow down the development of fine lines, wrinkles and “leathery” skin. It also can prevent sunspots and other skin discolorations.
  3. Protection from a depleting ozone layer. The ozone layer is a part of Earth’s atmosphere that acts as a sun shield by absorbing harmful UVB rays. But as it depletes, more harmful rays are reaching us on the ground. Sunscreen and protective clothing are our best defense.
  4. Added protection for those with photosensitivity. No matter your skin type, certain medications, medical conditions or disorders, and skin-care products can make your skin highly sensitive to the sun. Photosensitivity reduces your natural defenses against the sun’s harmful rays, which in turn raises your risk for lasting skin damage and skin cancer.
  5. Reduced risk for heat illness or heat stroke. With extended sun exposure, you are more at risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Symptoms can include nausea, muscle cramps, headache and in extreme cases, loss of consciousness and rapid heartbeat. Sunscreen, in addition to lots of water and frequent breaks in the shade, can help you avoid these sometimes life-threatening illnesses.

The good news is applying sunscreen is more convenient than ever. There are many sunscreen options available today, including sprays and sunscreen that is built into moisturizers and makeup products.

Sunscreen is an important part of sun protection, but sunscreen alone isn’t enough to keep you safe from harmful rays. You also can protect yourself with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, sun-protective clothing and limiting your sun exposure during the most intense times of day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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