Key Takeaways:

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours.
  • Wear protective clothing, hats, and UV-blocking sunglasses to shield your skin and eyes.
  • Stay hydrated, seek shade during peak sun hours, and be mindful of medications that may increase sun sensitivity.

ummer is here, and with it comes the need to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. One of the best ways to do this is by using sunscreen with the right SPF.

But what does SPF mean, and how do you choose the right product for you?

Let's uncover the essentials of SPF and how to make the most of it.

Understanding SPF

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It is a measure of how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn and contributes to skin cancer. The SPF number indicates how long you can stay in the sun without getting burned compared to being unprotected. For example, if you use an SPF 30 sunscreen, it means you can stay in the sun 30 times longer than without any protection before burning.

Choosing the Right SPF

When selecting an SPF product, consider your skin type, the time you plan to spend outdoors, and the intensity of the sun exposure. Here are some general guidelines:

  • SPF 15: Blocks about 93% of UVB rays. Suitable for everyday activities with limited sun exposure.
  • SPF 30: Blocks 97% of UVB rays. Ideal for most outdoor activities and provides sufficient protection for fair-skinned individuals.
  • SPF 50: Blocks 98% of UVB rays. Recommended for extended outdoor activities or for those with very fair skin or a history of skin cancer. (Learn More:

Remember, no sunscreen can block 100% of UVB rays, and higher SPF numbers provide only a slight increase in protection.

Broad-Spectrum Protection

While SPF measures UVB protection, it's also essential to guard against UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin and contribute to aging and long-term skin damage. Look for a sunscreen labeled "broad-spectrum," which means it offers protection against both UVB and UVA rays (Learn More:

Types of Sunscreen

There are various types of sunscreen, each designed to meet different needs:

  • Chemical Sunscreens: These contain organic compounds that absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat. They are often more cosmetically appealing as they blend easily into the skin.
  • Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens: These contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which sit on the skin's surface and physically block UV rays. They are often recommended for sensitive skin.
  • Water-Resistant Sunscreens: Ideal for swimming or sweating, these sunscreens remain effective for 40 to 80 minutes in water but still need to be reapplied regularly.
  • Sensitive Skin Formulas: These sunscreens are free from fragrances, oils, and parabens, making them suitable for people with sensitive skin.
  • Sport Sunscreens: Designed to stay put during vigorous activities, these sunscreens are sweat-resistant and provide long-lasting protection.

Application Tips

Using sunscreen effectively involves more than just picking the right SPF. Here are some tips to ensure you are adequately protected:

  1. Apply Generously: Use about one ounce (a shot glass full) of sunscreen to cover your entire body. Don't forget areas like the ears, neck, and the tops of your feet.
  2. Apply Early: Put on sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside. This gives it time to bind to your skin and start working.
  3. Reapply Often: Reapply every two hours, or more often if you're swimming, sweating, or towel drying. Even water-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied.
  4. Check the Expiration Date: Sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time. Make sure your product is not expired.

Special Considerations

Different activities and environments require specific types of sun protection:

  • Water Activities: Use water-resistant sunscreen, which can last 40 to 80 minutes in the water.
  • Sports: Opt for a sweat-resistant formula if you’re engaging in vigorous activities.
  • Sensitive Skin: Look for sunscreens formulated for sensitive skin, which are free from fragrances, oils, and parabens.

Sunscreen Myths

There are many myths surrounding sunscreen use. Here are a few debunked:

  • Myth: "I don't need sunscreen on cloudy days."
    • Fact: Up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate through clouds. It's essential to wear sunscreen even on overcast days.
  • Myth: "A higher SPF means I don't have to reapply."
    • Fact: No matter the SPF, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.
  • Myth: "Darker skin doesn't need sunscreen."
    • Fact: While darker skin has more natural protection against UV rays, it can still suffer from sun damage and skin cancer. Everyone needs sunscreen.

Learn More Sunscreen Myths: MayoClinic

Beyond Sunscreen

In addition to sunscreen, you can further protect your skin by wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and UV-blocking sunglasses. Seeking shade during peak sun hours (10 AM to 4 PM) also helps reduce your risk of sunburn and long-term damage.

Staying safe in the sun is essential for your health and well-being. By following these tips, you can enjoy the outdoors while minimizing the risks of sun exposure. For more health and wellness tips tailored to older adults, join a GetSetUp class today. Stay safe, stay protected, and make the most of your sunny days!

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Jun 10, 2024

Classes by:

Pam Penney

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