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About 90% of skin aging is due to sun exposure, and it has been shown that people who use sunscreen regularly with an SPF of 15 or higher show less skin aging and sun damage than people who do not use sunscreen. Not only does the sun cause premature aging of the skin, but it also is the cause of much more serious issues such as skin cancer, one of the most common cancers but also one of the most preventable. Most skin cancer is caused by damage from the sun’s UV rays, which can be protected against using a combination of sunscreen, protective clothing, and staying in the shade. The benefits of sunscreen are clear, but how do you pick an SPF that works for you?

Sunscreen Options

When it comes to sunscreen, you should look for water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. This SPF blocks most of the sun’s harmful UVB rays (UVA protection is not rated). UVA rays can cause skin aging including wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer.

Sunscreen should be applied generously, all over the body that might be exposed to the sun and reapplied every two hours. If you are swimming or sweating, it should be applied even more often.

The best sunscreen for you is one that you will apply regularly and generously. SPF comes in many forms including:

·   Creams. Sunscreen cream is ideal for dry skin and is a great option for protecting your face.

·   Lotions. Lotions are thinner and less greasy than creams and are great for applying over large areas such as the back, torso, arms, and legs.

·   Gels. Gels are a great option for protecting hairy areas such as the scalp or chest, or for skin that is oily.

·   Sticks. When applying sunscreen around sensitive areas such as the eyes or mouth, sunscreen sticks can be very helpful and efficient.

·   Sprays. For children, sunscreen sprays are a good choice because of the ease of application. With sunscreen sprays, it can be difficult to know how generously the sunblock is applied, so be sure to spray a thick and even coating. Do not spray near the face or mouth.

If you rely on cosmetics of moisturizers with SPF for your sun protection, be sure to regularly reapply these products to provide adequate protection.

The Best Way to Stay Protected

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of the sun is through a combination of SPF, protective clothing, and avoiding the sun during peak hours (generally between 10 am and 4 pm). When applying sunscreen, use a generous amount to evenly coat the skin and let it dry at least 15 minutes before going outside—even when it’s cloudy. When applying sunscreen, don’t forget about the lips, tops of the feet, ears, and head.

Many times, skin aging and skin cancer are preventable. Take care and be intentional to protect your skin against the sun’s dangerous UVA and UVB rays by using safe sun practices and incorporating regular sunblock application into your daily routine.

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