Mastering Sunscreen Application

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Good skin care — including sun protection and gentle cleansing — can keep your skin glowing. And having healthy skin can help you look younger as you age.  Given the recognized public health benefits of sunscreen use, Americans should continue to use sunscreen with other sun protective measures as this important effort moves forward. Some other key sun safety tips include:

  • Limit time in the sun
  • Wear clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours

How to best use stick and spray sunscreens.

Sunscreen is a vital tool in the fight against skin cancer, including melanoma, its deadliest form. Research suggests that daily sunscreen use—when used correctly—can significantly cut the incidence of melanoma.

Accordingly, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology advise their patients that the best sunscreen is the one they’ll actually wear. For many families, particularly those with young children, this often includes stick and spray sunscreens in addition to lotions.

“Sticks are easy for under the eyes and the backs of the hands, while spray sunscreens are often easier to apply on children,” said board-certified dermatologist Debra Wattenberg, MD, FAAD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “However, it’s important to take precautions when using stick and spray sunscreens to ensure the best protection for you and your family.”

For the best protection with stick sunscreen, Dr. Wattenberg recommends the following tips:

  1. For each area of skin you’re protecting, apply four passes back and forth. Doing this will help ensure that you’re using enough sunscreen.
  2. Rub it in afterwards for an even layer of coverage.
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To safely and adequately use spray sunscreen, Dr. Wattenberg recommends these tips:

  1. Hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray generously. Most adults need at least 1 ounce of sunscreen—about enough to fill a shot glass—to fully cover the body. Since it can be difficult to determine how much spray sunscreen is enough, a good rule of thumb is to spray until your skin glistens. It’s also important to remember that a typical 6-ounce bottle of spray sunscreen contains six applications.
  2. Rub it in thoroughly. To ensure that you didn’t miss any spots and that you have an even layer of coverage, rub the sunscreen in after spraying.
  3. Avoid inhaling spray sunscreen. Current US Food and Drug Administration regulations do not pertain to spray sunscreens, although the agency continues to evaluate these products to ensure safety and effectiveness. Do not inhale spray sunscreen, and never spray sunscreen around or near your face or mouth. Instead, spray the sunscreen on your hands first and then apply it to your face.
  4. Avoid using spray sunscreen on windy days. These conditions make it more difficult to apply the sunscreen and easier to accidentally inhale it.
  5. Never apply spray sunscreen near heat or open flame, or while smoking. Although sunscreen isn’t usually flammable, it can be when used in aerosol form. Never spray it by a grill, candles, or other sources of fire, and make sure it is thoroughly rubbed in and dry before approaching any open flames.

Since no sunscreen blocks 100 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, Dr. Wattenberg emphasizes that it’s also important to seek shade and wear protective clothing whenever possible, including a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection.

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“No matter what type of sunscreen you use, make sure you reapply it every two hours when outdoors or immediately after swimming or sweating,” said Dr. Wattenberg. “If you have questions about which type of sunscreen to use for you and your family, ask a board-certified dermatologist for help.”

 

Author
Craig Gustafson

InnoVision Health Media reports on health content that is supported by our editorial advisory board and content published in our group of peer reviewed medical journals.

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