Skin cancer affects one in five Americans in their lifetime making this the most common cancer in the US. However, there are steps individuals can take to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, thus reducing their chance of contracting skin cancer. Some simple steps that can be taken to reduce your risk are seeking shade, covering exposed skin with protective clothing, and regularly applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
A recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology found that 65% of people say they often forget to reapply their sunscreen — leaving them vulnerable to dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The AAD found that only around a third of Americans reapply their sunscreen every two hours while outside. Sunscreen wears off and incorrect usage can leave you unprotected and increase your risk of skin cancer.
Sunscreen is an accessible and important step to take to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer. Here are five common sunscreen mistakes — and how to avoid them:
- Ignoring the label
- There are many brands of sunscreens on the market. To effectively protect yourself, use a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, is water-resistant and has an SPF of 30 or above.
- Using too little
- Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. Most adults need about one ounce of sunscreen – or enough to fill a shot glass to fully cover their body. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside, and remember to reapply every two hours while outdoors or after swimming or sweating.
- Applying only in sunny weather
- Only about 20% of Americans use sunscreen on cloudy days. However, the sun emits harmful UV rays all year long. Up to 80% of UV rays can still penetrate your skin on cloudy days. To protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer, make applying sunscreen a part of your everyday routine.
- Using an old bottle
- The FDA requires that all sunscreens maintain their original strength for at least three years. However, if your sunscreen has expired or you’re unsure how long you’ve had it – throw it out and purchase a new bottle. In the future, if you buy a sunscreen that doesn’t show an expiration date, write the purchase date on the bottle so that you’ll know how long ago you purchased it and can stop using it if you still have it after three years.
- Relying solely on sunscreen
- No sunscreen is capable of blocking 100% of the sun’s UV rays. Due to this, it’s important to seek shade and wear sun-protective clothing such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.
Sunscreen is the most important skin care product you can use. It helps prevent sunburns, skin cancer and premature skin aging (including wrinkles and age spots.) Not sure which sunscreen is right for you and your family? Come in and see us. We have a wide selection of options that meet our dermatologists’ recommendations.
Savannah River Dermatology is located at 575 Furys Ferry Rd in Augusta, Ga. For appointments and other questions our office can be reached at 706-691-7079.