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Your Guide to Effective Sunscreen Protection

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 1 in 5 Americans developing skin cancer by the age of 50. One of the most effective ways to protect your skin is by wearing sunscreen every day—but what else? With so many types of sunscreens on the market, it can be hard to choose which ones a dermatologist would recommend. Here’s a breakdown of the types of sunscreens and how you should be applying them to keep your skin protected and healthy this summer.

The two main types of sunscreens are mineral and chemical, which differ in how they protect your skin from the sun. Chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin, converting UV rays into heat. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and create a barrier between you and the sun by reflecting UV rays. While they act in different ways, both options are great for preventing sun damage.

When it comes to the level of protection to look for, most dermatologists recommend wearing SPF 30 or above and reapplying every 90 minutes, especially after sweating or swimming. You should use one ounce of sunscreen, or enough to fill a shot glass, to cover your entire body. In addition to sunscreen, you can protect your skin by wearing sun-protective clothing, seeking out shade and avoiding being in the sun between the hours of 10 and 2.

It can be complicated to determine which sunscreen works the best for you but wearing sunscreen regularly, regardless of the type, is the best way to significantly reduce your chances of premature aging and developing skin cancer. “I always say the best sunscreen is the one you use,” says Dr. Julia Girard, a dermatologist at Harbin Clinic Dermatology Rome. “I do recommend the highest SPF you can find, because people typically don’t apply enough sunscreen to get the SPF listed on the bottle. For example, if you’re using a SPF 50 sunscreen, you may only be getting SPF 30 due to inadequate application. I also recommend physical blocking sunscreens for patients with sensitive skin or those battling melasma. There are a wide variety of sunscreens on the market, but the most important thing about sunscreen is that you wear it regularly.”

To learn more about how to protect your skin this summer, visit Harbin Clinic Dermatology.

Content updated May 2023.

Published July 12, 2022

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