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Summer is here, meaning it’s time to break out the sunscreen again. 

When you enjoy summer’s warm temperatures and all the activities that come along with it, whether it’s swimming, hiking, or attending a festival, it’s crucial to protect your skin with some SPF.

But with so many different sun protection products available, it can be confusing trying to choose a suitable one to protect you while also being kind to your skin and the planet. Take a look at this helpful guide to help understand your sunscreen needs and how to take care of your skin.

Why Is Sunscreen so Important?

Staying consistent with sunscreen benefits you in several ways. Not only does it prevent painful sunburns and premature aging, but it also has a much more important function. 

The ingredients in sunscreen work to protect your skin against the sun’s harmful rays, lowering your skin cancer risk. The sun emits ultraviolet, or UV, rays, which can cause skin cancer. Sunscreen absorbs those rays and drastically reduces your exposure. Research from the Skin Cancer Foundation shows that daily use of SPF 15 or more can reduce a person’s skin risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40% and melanoma by 50%.

How Much Protection Do I Need?

Sun protection value, or SPF, is the primary measurement of sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection. The most common products you’ll find on store shelves are 15, 30, 45, or 50 SPF, but there are sunscreens available with 100 SPF. The level of protection required depends on how long you’ll spend in the sun, but general guidance indicates that everyone, no matter their age, gender, or complexion, should use at least SPF 30.

Photo: liudmilachernetska via 123RF

How Do I Choose the Right Product Type?

Sunscreen protects from ultraviolet burning (UVB) and ultraviolet aging (UVA) rays, both of which contribute to the development of skin cancer. Some products focus more heavily on just one of these, but most common products available on the market today are broad-spectrum, meaning they protect against both types of ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

How Much Sunscreen Should I Use?

You have to apply sunscreen correctly to access the full benefits of your chosen SPF—and that means using enough of the product. Experts say you should use two tablespoons to cover all your body’s exposed areas, including ears and lips. If you prefer the spray-on variety, keep spraying until you see a sheen on your skin. Once you’re out in the sun, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours at a minimum. If you sweat, take a swim, or wipe down with a towel, you should reapply it.

What About My Face?

For many people, face skin is more sensitive than other areas of the body. That means applying the same sunscreen to your cheeks that you put on your legs might be uncomfortable or perhaps cause a breakout. While protecting yourself from cancer is a priority over preventing a near-term temporary breakout, there are products that do both and avoid unpleasant effects like stinging around the eyes. Look for products that are oil-free, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic, meaning it is specifically formulated to avoid causing blocked pores. Facial sunscreens will be labeled, so look for one that offers appropriate protection while also staying away from things you know irritate your skin.

Decreasing your skin cancer risk doesn’t mean that you have to avoid going outside and all of the exciting activities that summer offers. Nature is good for you; just be sure to protect yourself by choosing the right sunscreen product.