Sunscreen is like your tan. It won't last. Actually, sunscreen fades more quickly than many people would imagine, which is why applying often is so important. According to the American Melanoma Foundation, waterproof sunscreen won't protect you if you've been in the water for longer than 80 minutes. Even if your sunscreen is waterproof (which it should be!), you should also reapply every time you get out of the pool.
We've all heard the claim "If the SPF is higher than 30, the number makes no difference." But does it? The short answer is yes-- it does matter. Your tanning-enthusiast friends aren't completely wrong though. The higher the number, the less it starts to matter. New York Times writer Catherine Saint Louis points out that SPF 30 blocks 96.7% of ultraviolet radiation, SPF 50 absorbs 98%, and Neutrogena's new SPF 100 sunscreen only increases protection by 2% (blocking 99% UVB rays). The protection differences are much bigger between lower SPF numbers, so it is important to use SPF of at least 15. But now you know: lathering on that SPF 85 will make you slimier, but not considerably more protected.
When it comes to protecting your skin, the weather outside is less important than the sun's presence. The sun's harmful rays reflect off of snow in the same way they bounce off of water, so it's important to stay covered during the cooler months as well.
Your skin isn't the only part of your body that needs protecting. Many people forget that being in the sun means exposing your lips and scalp to UVB rays. Always carry lip balm in your bag and wear a hat if you plan on being in the sun for long periods of time. When applying sunscreen, it's also important to cover places that easily burn but you wouldn't normally think of-- like your hands and feet or the exposed part of your ears.
No one person is the same, and neither is their skin type. Having a super-tan friend who never burns doesn't make it okay for you to lather on less sunscreen. It is important to know your skin type so that you can buy the appropriate skin-care products when you're going to be outdoors. Along those same lines, no one is exempt from sun-damage. Just because you can't immediately see the effects of laying in the sun unprotected doesn't mean your skin can't feel the burn.
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