Summer is in full swing, and between the beach trips and barbecues your skin can take a major beating. Long days out in the sun can wreak havoc, causing sunspot and wrinkles and increasing your risk of skin cancer. Luckily, we have all you need to know to get sun-kissed — not sun-scorched — all summer long. Here, the seven worst mistakes, plus easy fixes.
This article originally appeared on Sharecare.com, the leading online health and wellness social platform.
1. Using the Wrong SPF
You know to slather on the sunscreen before heading outside. What you may not know is that you're choosing the wrong SPF. High SPFs offer only slightly better protection than those with a lower number. "Sunscreens level off after SPF 45, and there's no such thing as 100% protection," says dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD. High SPFs can also lead people to believe they can stay outside longer, increasing their chances of skin damage and skin cancer.
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What to do instead: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen or sunblock with an SPF between 30 and 50 to protect your skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply every two hours and after getting out of the water.
2. Counting on the Clouds
Venturing outside when it’s overcast doesn’t mean you’re safe from harmful rays. Up to 40% of UVA rays — the ones that cause sun damage — reach us on overcast days, meaning you can still get sunburnt even if the sun isn’t shining. Not only that, but UVA rays can pass right through glass windows, meaning you're at risk whether in a car or sitting close to a window at home or in the office.
What to do instead: Apply adequate sun protection everyday. Dr. Downie recommends an "SPF 30 rain or shine, January through December, regardless of ethnicity."
3. Skipping the Spot Check
Rushing to the beach makes it easy to overlook the backs of the knees, feet, hands and ears. "These places get sunburned very easily from neglect," says Dr. Downie. Lips are especially vulnerable to sun damage since they lack protective melanin, upping your risk for skin cancer on your mouth. Sun exposure also damages collagen, which can thin lips over time.
What to do instead: Be sure to apply sun protection to those areas and add broad-spectrum lip balm to your bag. Apply it every 2 hours. And, ladies, lipsticks and glosses don’t count. The sheen attracts damaging rays, and lipsticks that claim to contain an SPF can leave you susceptible to UVA rays.
4. Scratching Stings and Bites
Bugs are as common to summer as backyard cookouts. Their unpleasant bites can itch like crazy, but it’s best not to scratch. Digging at bug bites can break the skin, increasing your chance of infection. Not only that, but continued scratching can lead to scarring.
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What to do instead: For stings, scrape away remaining stingers using a credit card or fingernail. Relieve the pain by applying a cool compress to the bite or sting and try an anti-itch lotion or antihistamine to combat the itching. Aloe vera gel can help soothe the affected area while ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling. Keep the bite or sting covered to fight the temptation to scratch.
5. Forgetting Your Feet
Fun flip-flops and flirty sandals look cute with shorts and summer dresses, but they aren’t the best option for your feet. Spending all day in footwear with no support spreads out the pad of your heels, causing the skin to become cracked. Open-back shoes also expose the delicate skin on your feet to the air, drying them out. These dry cracks can deepen and in some cases, bleed.
What to do instead: If you don’t want to give up your favorite summer shoes, make sure to keep your feet moisturized. Before bed, take a bath or shower to soften the skin. Apply a moisturizing foot cream and slip into soft cotton socks. They'll help your feet absorb the moisturizer, keeping them soft.
6. Getting Lax with Kids' Sun Protection
It can be a battle trying to apply sunscreen to squirmy little ones during a day at the beach, but all takes is one bad sunburn during childhood to more than double your child’s chances for melanoma when they get older.
What to do instead: Make it a game by letting kids “paint” each other with sunscreen sticks, then step in and finish the job. Another solution: Buy your kids swimwear with built-in SPF (you'll still need to apply sunscreen to the spots the suit doesn't cover). And don’t be fooled by sunscreens labeled waterproof. You'll need to reapply sunscreen each time they get out of the water.
7. Misusing Makeup
Whether at the beach or out running errands, we all want to look our best, but packing on powder or heavy foundation is a recipe for breakouts and blackheads. Your pores open up while sweating, leaving them susceptible to getting clogged with dirt, oil and makeup. Not only that but if you're prone to acne, "wearing makeup while you sweat can aggravate it," says Dr. Downie.
What to do instead: Rethink your summer routine. If you’re headed to the beach, skip the makeup and focus on sun protection. For non-beach days, keep it light. Stick with a noncomedogenic, tinted moisturizer with broad-spectrum sun protection, waterproof mascara and a tinted SPF lip balm.
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