6 Mistakes you’re making with Sunscreen

It has been said that 90 percent of sun damage in your skin has happened by age 18. But we’ve discovered this philosophy is actually an old school of thought.

Today, skin experts now believe that only about 25 percent of the damage has occurred by age 18.

This means: No matter your age, you still have plenty of time to protect yourself and prevent further sun damage.


Wearing sunscreen every single day, rain or shine, is still the Number One Way to protect your skin from sun damage – which will not only help prevent skin cancer, but also visible skin aging. I like to tell my clients that sunscreen is the easiest and least expensive anti-aging potion on the market.

Here’s a list of common mistakes made when using sunscreen, and how to make sure you’re doing it right.

  1. You’re not applying enough. Most Americans apply only 25 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. For full body application, you need one full ounce (the size of a shot glass) of product – no joke. For face, neck, and ear coverage, you need about ½ a teaspoon. It sounds like a lot, but please don’t skimp, don’t try to make that 4-oz. tube last all summer – it’s not enough. If you’re relying on makeup with sunscreen to get you through the day, it’s still not enough coverage – apply your layer of sunscreen first, then follow with makeup with sunscreen for the best (nearly all-day) protection.
  2. You’re applying at the wrong time. Don’t wait until you get to your destination to apply your sunscreen, put it on in the morning, to clean dry skin, at least 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. This allows the sunscreen to bind with your skin’s outer layers to provide the best protection. And then, reapply after swimming or sweating, or if you’ve been in the sun for more than a few hours. When we’re out sailing all day, I apply full coverage before getting dressed, and then add one more layer when we get to the boat, before we get out on the water.
  3. You’re not choosing the right kind of broad spectrum ingredients for your skin conditions. If you are prone to melasma (hormonal brown spots, or hyperpigmentation), you need to wear sunscreen with ingredients that reflect both the heat and the UV rays. Look for Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide under active ingredients. Avobenzone (Parsol 1789) absorbs and neutralizes UV rays, but doesn’t reflect the heat (which can trigger post-inflammatory pigmentation). Avobenzone is not always the best choice for more sensitive skin types, especially those with sensitive eyes – but it’s fine for body application.
  4. You believe that a higher SPF gives you better protection. Despite the higher SPF numbers, skin cancer rates are increasing. Why? Because no matter what “number” you put on, you still need to reapply. Sun exposure mixed with your skin’s acid mantle will break down sunscreen protection over a few hours. So you need to reapply, especially when you’re spending extra time in the sun. Or better yet, wear UPF-rated clothing to provide another layer of protection.
  5. You’re afraid to wear sunscreen because: a. it makes you “break out,” or b. it’s too greasy! There are plenty of non-greasy, quick-absorbing, non-pore-clogging options out there… I carry several different choices from Epionce, Prasanna, EltaMD and Face Reality.
  6. You wear sunscreen only during the summer or for outside activities. Nope – UV exposure can happen through windows and clouds, and reflect off concrete, asphalt, water and snow. Just make it part of your everyday routine. Regardless of season or whether you’re spending time inside or outside. My go-to recommendation is SPF 30 when you’re inside most of the day, SPF 50 when you’re spending lots of time outdoors. Oh, and don’t forget to reapply.

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Need a sunscreen recommendation? Contact me for several great choices available at Face Perfection.

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