Are You Using Sunscreen Incorrectly?

Written by Leslie Robbins, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant on February 9, 2017 No Comments

correctly using sunscreen

You may be well aware of the dangers of the sun. Tanning, either through the sun or by using a tanning bed, can be hazardous to your health. Just sitting out in the sun or using a tanning bed once a month can increase your chances of developing some form of skin cancer by 55%. Additionally, UV exposure can cause sunburns and early onset aging symptoms like wrinkles, lines, and dullness.

The best defense against UV-induced damage is practicing good sun protection. Simple practices to avoid harsh UV sun exposure can help, such as avoiding the sun during peak UV index hours (typically 10:00 am – 4:00 pm), or wearing wide-brimmed hats and other sun protective gear like rash guards.

However, using a high quality sunscreen is the most critical component of sun safety. But did you know that many people use sunscreen incorrectly?

Here are some common fails when it comes to sunscreen usage:

1. Not using enough: When it comes to sunscreen, more is better! For a “full body” application you’ll want to use 8 teaspoons of sunscreen total, broken down as follows: face (1 teaspoon), arms (1 teaspoon), stomach/chest (1 teaspoon), back (1 teaspoon), each leg (2 teaspoons).

2. Not opting for broad spectrum: When choosing a sunscreen opt for a “broad-spectrum” formulation. SPF relates specifically to protecting the skin from UVB rays. Only broad spectrum sunscreens shield the skin from both UVB and UVA radiation.

3. Only wearing it on sunny days: Wear your sunscreen daily! It’s possible for UVA rays to penetrate through clouds, so your skin is not protected simply because it’s overcast. Even in the shade your skin is being exposed to UV rays reflected from the ground or water.

4. Using expired sunscreen: Skincare products do expire over time. Expired products lose their effectiveness, or worse, can be harmful to the skin. So pay attention to expiration dates.

5. Relying on SPF makeup: Even though your makeup has added SPF protection, using sunscreen underneath is critical. Fortunately sunscreens like EltaMD Clear Broad-Spectrum are lightweight and great for wearing under makeup.

6. Going into the sun too early: Did you know that chemical sunscreens need time to work? If you opt to use a chemical sunscreen it’s recommended to apply 20-30 minutes before going out into the sun. This gives the sunscreen time to fully absorb into the skin.

7. Missing spots: Sunscreen can only help the skin it’s applied on. Common areas people neglect are the ears, scalp (typically where the hair parts), feet, chest, and the back of the neck. Be sure to cover all areas of exposed skin.

8. Failing to reapply: It is especially important to reapply your sunscreen at least every two hours. If you are swimming or sweating reapply hourly.


Leslie Robbins, MPAS, PA-C

Leslie Robbins, MPAS, PA-C, earned her Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from the Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Midland. She specializes in Dermatology and has had extensive experience with surgical procedures since earning her Masters. Leslie is board certified by the National Commission of Certification of PAs and is licensed by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.

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