Three Sun Safety Risks That Might Surprise You

July 2021

If you love soaking up the sun, you likely already know you need to slather on sunscreen. But even people with a lot of sun safety sense might inadvertently expose themselves to more risk than they think.

Here are three common mistakes to watch out for:

Your sunscreen doesn’t offer enough protection

You’ve probably noticed your bottle has a number and “SPF,” which stands for sun protection factor. This is a guide for how long it would take for the sun’s UVB rays to burn you if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. That means wearing SPF 30 means it should take 30 times longer to burn than without. The Skin Cancer Foundation advocates a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher for everyday wear and 30+ for outdoor activities.

Your sunscreen doesn’t offer UVA and UVB protection

Look for sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum,” meaning that it includes ingredients that protect you from both types of harmful rays from the sun. UVB rays are the ones that cause visible sunburn. They can also cause sunburns, skin cancer, and skin aging. In contrast, exposure to UVA rays won’t lead to sunburn. But it still can cause indirect harm to your cells’ DNA and can lead to long-term damage like wrinkles and, potentially, skin cancer.

You don’t apply sunscreen to the covered parts

Believe it or not, clothing can’t deflect all the sun’s harmful rays, especially if it’s a light weave or color. One test is whether you can see light through the fabric. Even better: Get in the habit of applying sunscreen from head to toe to ensure you’ll be safe.

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