The All in One Guide to Using Sunscreen


You know that sunscreen is important. It’s the best way to protect your skin from the sun. But not all sunscreens are made equally. There are different levels of protection you’ll need.

On top of that, you need to use sunscreen in the right way. This isn’t a case of just slapping the cream on and walking out of the door. It’s not like moisturizer where you can quickly apply and leave for the rest of the day. You need to make sure it soaks into the skin and offers the best protection possible.

Of course, you may want to know about natural sunscreens to avoid the chemicals. There are some good options out there!

This guide will share everything you need to know about using sunscreens. Make sure you get the best protection against the sun.

Don’t Believe the Labels

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. The labels!

You’ll hear all sorts of claims about being “all natural,” “oil-free,” and “dermatologist tested.” These claims could be true, but often they aren’t. The companies don’t have to meet any guidelines to put these statements on their products. They can put anything on there they want when it comes to claims about using natural products and being tested by dermatologists.

Before you pick something up because the label says it’s made with natural ingredients, do a little research. While the sunscreen may use natural ingredients, the processing to create the cream damages those natural ingredients. They end up being full of toxins and chemicals anyway.

The major of branded sunscreen has at least one chemical in it. These toxic chemicals can be extremely hazardous to the skin and body. One of the worst chemicals is oxybenzone, which has been linked to skin damage, hormone imbalances, and much more. Retinyl palmitate is another popular chemical but is considered a potential carcinogen.

You’re applying these directly to your skin, where they soak into the bloodstream and pass around your body. Even if they don’t soak in, you likely inhale them. The chemicals tend to be used to add scents to the sunscreens. Many of them are hidden too since they’re under the “parfum” or “fragrance” ingredient. While companies must start certain ingredients, they can keep others hidden under the “parfum” as a secret formula or trade secret! Some of these have 5,000 different ingredients making them up!

It can be difficult to work your way through the different sunscreens when taking this into account. But this isn’t the biggest issue when using sunscreen.

Some of the biggest culprits for harmful chemicals are the sunscreens that double up as a bug repellant. Most them don’t work as they say they will and end up just filling your body with unnecessary toxins. It’s best to keep your sunscreens and bug repellants separate. This doesn’t just protect against toxins but also means you use them both properly; you can overuse bug repellants when trying to keep your sunscreen layers up to date.

Some people are also allergic to sunscreen because of the chemicals and ingredients. If you don’t see anything on the ingredients list but worry that there are allergies, test the sunscreen on a small patch of skin first. The back of the wrist or inside the elbow is the best place for testing. Do this on children too. If there is no reaction after an hour or so, you should find the sunscreen is fine for use on the whole body.

Mineral-based sunscreens, usually zinc or titanium, are the best options for your skin and health. They reflect the sun, helping to reduce the exposure and prevent the absorption of unnecessary chemicals. Zinc can also help to repair some of the damage if you’ve suffered sunburn on a different day.

Other natural options include covering up and finding shade! While they’re not the best for the beach if you want to be “cool,” they will certainly help to keep the sun’s rays from touching your skin.

It’s Not All About the SPF

Having a strong SPF is important, but you can’t just look at this when choosing a sunscreen. You want to make sure the type of protection for your skin is right.

Most of companies will offer protection against UVB rays. These are the type that burns your skin and can lead to dark spots over time. Yes, this protection is essential, but you also need to protect against the cell damage and potential skin cancer risks. These are the UVA rays. If the company doesn’t state they protect against UVA rays, don’t assume they do.

One of the biggest points of using sunscreen is to protect yourself against skin cancer. The UV rays are extremely dangerous, whether high or low intensity. So, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays at the same time is something to ensure.

The SPF is important. SPF 30+ is something you want to look out for. There’s no need for anything stronger than SPF 60, though.

Regardless of the SPF, make sure you apply enough of the sunscreen on your skin. You’ll hear people tell you to apply “liberally.” This means you want to put a little more than your moisturizing creams. There’s nothing wrong with still seeing some white of the cream while you wait for it to soak in your skin.

However, you can use too much. While natural sunscreens won’t cause hormonal imbalances, putting too much on can end up being ineffective. You just end up with a cloggy mess for your pores. It’s best to add just enough to allow some white to soak in but the rest soaks in immediately.

Waterproof Isn’t Always Waterproof

It’s common to become complacent when you find the term “waterproof” on the label. There are many sunscreens currently marketed as being waterproof, especially when it comes to the kids’ products. The idea is that you and your kids can swim at the beach without worrying about topping up the sunscreen. That really isn’t the case.

The waterproofing is great for when you’re in the water. However, when you get out, you will want to add a new layer of sunscreen to your skin. The layer of sunscreen will wash away during the exposure to the water. If you don’t top up, the sunscreen layers that you did have become ineffective and you increase the risk of burning and skin cancer.

You should apply any type of sunscreen every two hours anyway. This will help to keep the protection throughout the day, as the creams will soak into the skin and lose their effectiveness throughout the day. Stick to the two-hour rule regardless of the SPF.

Stronger SPF can give you the feeling like you don’t need the extra layers, but that is not true. The SPF is the level of protection during use and not the longevity of that protection!

Apply 30 Minutes Before Leaving

Many people will put the sunscreen on and quickly leave the house. It’s a last-minute thought on the days they decide to go to the beach. Others will choose to put the sunscreen on when they get to the beach instead!

You’re not going to get immediate protection for your skin. The sunscreen needs time to soak into your skin and develop the protection for your skin. Make sure you apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you leave the house. When it comes to topping up, you’ll still have some protection from the previous layer while the next layer sets in.

Exposure before the sunscreen starts to work is just like going out without sunscreen on at all. If you do go out without planning, putting the sunscreen on late is better than not at all. Opt for covering up while your sunscreen has the chance to soak in and offer the full protection.

You Need It Even on a Cloudy Day

It’s tempting to leave the house on a cloudy day without any coverage at all. After all, there are no sun rays, right? That isn’t necessarily the case. The sun’s rays are weaker, but they can still get through the clouds. You could end up with sun damage on a day with grey skies! You’ll still want to cover up your skin.

And remember that the clouds can part at any point in the day. Covering up will offer you protection on the days that you unexpectedly get a break in bad weather.

This is especially important if you’re going out in the middle of the day or you’re going to be by water. In water, the sun’s rays will reflect and bounce in multiple directions. You end up getting more sun exposure than you would have without the water, which increases your risk of burning. This is possible even if you don’t see the sun!

Everyone Needs Sunscreen!

While you may have dark skin, you are still at risk of sun damage. This is less likely than someone with light skin, but it’s not impossible to get sunburn or skin cancer. Your skin just finds it easier to reflect the sun’s rays and the damaging effects. However, there’s no point in risking it. Get sunscreen and make sure you use it properly.

You may find that a lower SPF is fine with dark skin. Some will also find that you can apply everything 3-4 hours instead of every 2 hours like those with fine skin will have. Just make sure you still top up regularly throughout the day.

Reapplication of your sunscreen throughout the day is important. Even if you don’t go anywhere near water, your body will sweat throughout the day. This leads to the sunscreen washing away naturally. You’ll need to top up your coverage to make sure you always have protection.

Think you have a base tan so you don’t need sunscreen? It’s a common misconception that a “base tan” will protect you from sun damage later. The tan is just your body reacting to the sun. The pigmentation is changing because of the rays. This coloring doesn’t stop the pigmentation from changing anymore or from the sun’s harmful rays damaging your skill cells. You can still develop sunburn or skin cancer!

The only time that no sunscreen is good is when you’re topping up your vitamin D. Depending on the type of skin you have, you only need 15-30 minutes of unprotected time in the sun to get your vitamin D allowance for the day. Any time after that and you’re damaging the good your body gains, so you’ll want to go back into the house.

The good news is for those who like to put their sunscreen on as they leave the house. You’ve got that 30 minutes when the sunscreen starts to work to get your vitamin D allowance.

Go Out with Hat and Sunglasses

Despite using sunscreen, you will still want to leave the house with a hat and sunglasses. It’s also preferable to cover your back and shoulders, which tend to be the most common parts of the skin that burn quickly. Covering up really is your best defense against the rays.

Hats and sunglasses are essential for protection to areas that you can’t cover with sunscreen. Have you ever found that your scalp ends up burned after a day at the beach? Adding sunscreen to your hair can leave you feeling like you’ve got a greasy mass in your hair. It’s easier to use a hat. A wide-brim hat will offer extra protection to your face and neck.

As for the sunglasses, they offer protection to your eyes. You can’t put sunscreen here, but your eyes suffer a lot of damage from the UV rays. Make sure the sunglasses are specifically created to block out the rays. Many fashionable ones offer no protection at all. Eye doctors tend to offer a good range of sunglasses for prescriptions and non-prescriptions to get full protection.

The Evolution of Sunscreens

Sunscreens are still evolving. Right now, many are full of unnecessary chemicals, but brands have realized the dangers. They are using more natural ingredients to offer protection from the rays. While the best way for sun protection remains through covering up, sunscreens are getting better. You just need to get the right type.

Make sure you get the right UV protection and use your sunscreen before you leave the house. Top up regularly and you will have constant coverage throughout the day.

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