During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dermatologists Share 5 Common Sunscreen Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them

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During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dermatologists Share 5 Common Sunscreen Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime. .

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime. Yet according to dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, most cases of skin cancer can be prevented by protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The best way to do this, they say, is by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. However, in a recent survey, the AAD found that not everyone is applying their sunscreen correctly — leaving people vulnerable to dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

“Sunscreen is a vital tool in the fight against skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form,” says board-certified dermatologist Tanya Kormeili, MD, FAAD. “However, in a recent survey, the AAD found that only about a third of Americans are reapplying their sunscreen every two hours while outside. Since sunscreen wears off, incorrect usage leaves you unprotected and susceptible to skin cancer.”

To help the public protect their skin and reduce their risk of skin cancer, Dr. Kormeili shares five common sunscreen mistakes and how to avoid them:

  1. Ignoring the label. There are a variety of sunscreens on the market. To effectively protect yourself from the sun, the AAD recommends looking for sunscreens that are broad-spectrum, water-resistant and have an SPF of 30 or higher.
  2. Using too little. Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. However, to fully cover their body, most adults need about one ounce of sunscreen – or enough to fill a shot glass. Apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin that isn’t covered by clothing. Apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every two hours while outdoors or after swimming or sweating.
  3. Applying only in sunny weather. Alarmingly, the AAD found that only about 20% of Americans use sunscreen on cloudy days. However, the sun emits harmful UV rays all year long. Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate your skin. To protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer, apply sunscreen every time you are outside, even on cloudy days.
  4. Using an old bottle. The FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years. Throw out your sunscreen if it’s expired or you’re unsure how long you’ve had it. In the future, if you buy a sunscreen that lacks an expiration date, write the purchase date directly on the bottle so that you know when to toss it out.
  5. Relying solely on sunscreen. Since no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s UV rays, it’s also important to seek shade and wear protective clothing, including a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.

“Sunscreen is the most important skin care product you can use, as it helps prevent sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin aging, including wrinkles and age spots,” says Dr. Kormeili. “However, to ensure the best protection for you and your family, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions before using.”

These tips are demonstrated in “How to Avoid Common Sunscreen Mistakes,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.

Read on: During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dermatologists Share 5 Common Sunscreen Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them

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