Young mother applying suntan lotion on daughter’s face at the beach (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Young mother applying suntan lotion on daughter’s face at the beach

Getty Images/iStockphoto

How not to “Feel the Burn”

POSTED May 18, 2023


Wearing sunscreen daily is an effective and easy way to protect your skin from the sun.


How can sunburn be bad for you?

When your skin gets exposed to UV light, also known as ultraviolet, for long periods of time, the affected area may become red, inflamed, and swollen, which is what we know as sunburn. Eventually, the sunburn will heal, but some of the remaining cells will acquire mutations that can cause cancer.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of skin cells. While normal and healthy skin cells grow and divide in a methodical way, cancer cells grow and divide in a hazardous way. Extreme exposure to the sun can lead to multiple types of cancers including basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, which can lead to melanoma later in life.

How does sunscreen protect you from the sun?

When applied to the skin, sunscreen acts as a barrier, either absorbing or reflecting UV rays. Sunscreen is able to do this due to the organic sunscreen molecules and inorganic pigments within the lotion that absorb, scatter, and reflect UV. Although you shouldn’t rely on sunscreen alone, it makes a whole lot of a difference.

How and when should you wear sunscreen?

You should put sunscreen on every inch of skin that will be exposed to the sun including the face, head, ears, shoulders, arms, chest, neck, legs, and back. Sunscreen should be applied generously to the sun-affected areas. You should wear sunscreen every time you plan on going outside but be cautious because even if it is cloudy, UV rays can still go through the clouds and seek out your skin.

What SPF should you wear?

In general, it is a good rule of thumb to wear at least 30 SPF. If you have paler skin or burn easily, you should wear around 60-80 SPF. If you have a darker skin tone, you will most likely get away with a lower SPF. Babies and seniors should wear at least SPF 50 depending on the skin.

Is spray better than lotion?

There are many different options when it comes to sunscreen, whether it is a stick, lotion, or spray. Typically the lotion has a higher SPF, but can leave a white cast and get messy. Lotion can be a better option if you are sweating or getting wet because it stays on your skin better. While the spray may be easier, quicker, and not as greasy to apply, it could be a lower SPF. The reason that spray sunscreen may be a lower SPF is because when you spray it most of the sunscreen goes into the air instead of your skin.

Does sunscreen expire?

Despite many beliefs, sunscreen does have an expiration date. Typically it can last to its original strength for about 3 years before declining its value. Unfortunately, most sunscreens don’t include an expiration date, but you can tell if your sunscreen has gone bad if it is chunky, other color, or watery.

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