It's almost certain that any dermatologist will mention sunscreen when asked 'What is the secret to healthy and beautiful skin?'. But beauty is just a welcomed side-effect of using sunscreen.
Sunscreen protects us against sunburns, skin cancer, uneven skin complexion and of course, fine lines and wrinkles.
But the effectiveness of sunscreens isn't just dependent on the product, it also depends on how you apply it. If not applied correctly, the benefits of the sunscreen you are using could be completely wasted.
If you want to reap the full benefits of sunscreen, ensure that you apply it correctly and at the right times.
Whether you are reading this in Summer, Autum, Winter or Spring, sunprotection and sun-education is always relevant.
In this article, we answer some common and what may seem basic questions about sunscreen use.
Which areas of my body should I apply sunscreen to?
Sunscreen should be applied to all areas exposed to the sun. Attention should be paid to the arms, legs, and face. But how about the ears and lips?
These are areas that seem not to get the same amount of attention and many are just not sure how to apply sunscreen around these areas. Let's cover this off.
Sunscreen use around the eyes
Don’t neglect your eyelids when it comes to wearing sunscreen. It certainly is a sensitive area, but skin cancers are not uncommon around the eyelids. And neither are crows-feet or fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes for those concerned!
You may wish to consider a sunscreen that is a physical blocker or commonly known as the mineral sunscreens for use on your eyelids. Zinc and titanium dioxide is what we are referring to here.
These are less likely to sting and cause problems around the eyes. If you do get sunscreen in your eyes however, flush it out with water to prevent stinging or any potential problems.
But in addition to this, you should be wearing UV-protection sunglasses. That goes a long way to protecting the skin around your eyes from UV.
Sunglasses that wrap around the eye are ideal for outdoor activities.
Sunscreen for the lips
Use a lip balm with at least SPF 30+ on your lips. If you find one that’s 50+ rating, go for it! Even better. These can be more difficult to come by.
But did you know that you really don’t need a dedicated lip sunscreen?
If you have a sunscreen with Zinc or Titanium Dioxide as their primary ingredients, it may be appropriate for you to use this. Always check with your pharmacist, GP or dermatologist.
And what if it’s just SPF 15+ you ask? Some would argue that the right sunscreen to use is the one that you like to use, and will use, no matter the rating!
How much sunscreen should I apply?
Sunscreen is often applied too sparingly, which can compromise the full benefits of UV protection offered by sunscreen. Most people apply 20% to 50% less sunscreen than necessary.
It is recommended that each square centimeter of skin should be protected with at least 2mg of sunscreen. This is difficult to measure when you are out and about right? Who carries around a scale with them to measure this?
The best rule of thumb is to use approximately 45mL (a shot glass and-a-half) of sunscreen on your skin all over. If you are more into cooking than drinking, think of it as 2-3 tablespoons on the body, and 1-2 teaspoons on the neck and face.
The cancer council suggests using one teaspoon per limb, one teaspoon for the front of the body, one teaspoon for the back and one teaspoon to the face.
While it might seem like a lot of sunscreen, the right amount will give you better protection for a longer time.
When should I apply sunscreen?
Let’s get straight to the point - do this 20 minutes prior to sun exposure whenever the UV index is predicted to be 3 or above.
Sunscreen doesn’t offer instant protection as does clothing or sun-shade. Sunscreen must be allowed to absorb into the skin before it can work its magic. Your sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before you leave the house.
When do I apply sunscreen again?
Sunscreen gradually loses its effectiveness as it wears off over time. Read the instructions of the sunscreen you are using, but as a general rule, reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours.
Before you take to the water or engage in strenuous exercise, it is important that you follow this rule. Reapply sunscreen immediately after you dry yourself! It is easy for water and sweat to wash away sunscreen that has been applied which can then make you more susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun.
The proper application of sunscreen will ensure that you have the maximum protection. Sunscreen should be used in combination with other sun-defense measures like wearing sun-protective clothing and seeking shade.
Download the Cancer Council’s Sunsmart app on your phone and set notifications to remind you when and how to apply sunscreen!
These methods combined will provide the best sun protection and healthier skin all round.