Are you someone who loves to walk or jog in a park or play sports all summer, out on a field? If you need to be out in the sun, losing time doing what you enjoy, it’s easy to use some sunscreen as an afterthought. But it’s important to be mindful about how you protect your skin, particularly if you love the outdoors.
“If you’re like most people, you’re probably not using sunscreen correctly — or using enough,” says dermatologist Alok Vij, MD. “And there are some special precautions I recommend for sports enthusiasts,” he adds.
Here are some expert tips to treat your skin right:
- Use a lot — estimate a shot glass full of sunscreen. That’s 1.5 ounces, or enough to cover the whole body. You need a pretty good coating.
- Don’t overestimate the power of a higher sun protection factor (SPF) level. “In general, 30 SPF or above is OK. But, because most people don’t put it on frequently enough or use enough, you may need a higher SPF,” Dr. Vij says. Consider that if you use less than one-quarter of what you need, as many people do, and you use 30 SPF sunscreen, you’re only getting one-fourth the full amount, which is 7 or 8 SPF, or essentially nothing, he says.
- If you’re only outside for 20 minutes, you still need sun protection. It’s easy to think that if they’re out for short time, sunscreen isn’t necessary. But it’s still exposure, and depending on the time of day, you can get a sunburn in very little time. Also, 20 minutes can easily turn into 40.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out. This will give it time to soak in. Otherwise your first sweat washes it away.
- Know when you need to reapply. If you are out for more than an hour and a half or two hours, reapply. If you go swimming you should reapply every time you get out of the water. Reapply more frequently if you are sweating a lot as well.
- Consider alternatives to lotions, creams and sprays. Sun protective clothing is a great way to protect your skin. Most athletic brands have some good options. These are listed as UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) as opposed to SPF factors, but the numbers are similar. A regular white T-shirt gives about 8 UPF protection and most sun protective clothing is around UPF 50, so it’s a significant improvement.
- Protect your eyes too. UV-protection sunglasses are an important way to protect against cataracts. You can get melanoma of the retina, though it’s not very common. Particularly when you are on the water, the light is reflecting so you are getting twice as much exposure. UV light exposure to the eye accelerates age-related vision changes, as well.