Sunscreen and Sun Safety Tips

Sunscreen and Sun Safety Tips

Enjoy your summer plans in a sun-safe way! As we start enjoying outdoor activities, we must remember to protect our skin from the sun. Too much exposure to the sun’s UV radiation can cause skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, having five or more sunburns doubles your risk of melanoma. One way to prevent skin cancer is wearing sunscreen daily and taking extra steps when needed. 

Keep reading for more tips on how to apply sunscreen effectively, and answers to common questions about sun safety.

What is the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen? 

The main difference between these two sunscreens is how they protect your skin. Chemical sunscreens have active ingredients that absorb UV rays before they can be absorbed by the skin.

These active chemicals include:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate

Chemical sunscreens tend not to leave a trace and are absorbed by the skin.

On the other hand, mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, create a physical barrier on the skin that prevents the sun’s rays from damaging the skin. Because mineral sunscreen sits on the skin as a protective barrier, it leaves a white, chalky film over the skin. It isn’t as water-resistant as chemical sunscreens and should be reapplied more often.

How often should I reapply my sunscreen when spending time outdoors? 

Reapply your sunscreen every two hours on any exposed skin when spending time outside. If you plan to engage in any water or physical activities that might make you sweat, reapply sunscreen by rinsing off and drying off your skin before reapplying. Also, wear a water-resistant sunscreen, if possible. 

What does SPF mean? 

SPF on sunscreens stands for sun protection factor. This number is located outside of the container of sun safety products. It measures how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to damage your skin, which causes a sunburn. Damage to the skin could lead to skin cancer. 

What should I look for when buying sunscreen? 

Here are some key elements to look for when buying sunscreen:

  • Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for daily use. We are exposed to UV rays every day while driving to work, standing next to a window or spending time outdoors. All of these daily exposures require sun protection. 
  • Look for a broad-spectrum label on the container, which means it protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays. 
  • Wear a water-resistant sunscreen if you are planning to spend time in the water or doing physical activity that will make you sweat. 

Does my skin color determine if I need to apply sunscreen? 

No, all skin requires protection against UV rays. Everyone should wear sunscreen daily regardless of how dark or light their skin tone is. 

Do I need to apply sunscreen even if my foundation has SPF? 

Wearing makeup that contains SPF is a great way to protect your skin. As a preventive measure, it is recommended to apply sunscreen on top of your makeup.  

Should I mix my foundation with SPF? 

Applying SPF and foundation is more efficient without mixing them. Mixing products could make them lose their properties and not protect your skin adequately. 

Does sunscreen expire? 

Yes, sunscreen expires, and the expiration date is on the outside of the container. All expired sun products should be replaced with new ones because the ingredients might not be as effective in protecting you against sun damage.

Is wearing sunscreen the one way to prevent skin cancer? 

No, wearing sunscreen is only one way to prevent skin cancer. Other ways to protect your skin include staying in the shade, wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs and avoiding being outside from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dermatology at University Health

Learn more about skin care at University Health. 


Subscribe icon
Get healthy living and wellness information, recipes and patient stories from University Health.
View other related content by:

Tell us your patient story

Share your inspiring personal story of hope and healing at University Health.