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The Crucial Sunscreen Mistake That Affects Your Whole Family — & How to Fix It

As moms, we all start our summers stocking up on sunscreen and grabbing slippery children for one more quick reapply before they cannonball into the pool. We select sun hats that maybe (hopefully!) the kids will keep on. We spend those glorious, warm, and sun-soaked months carting umbrellas and tents to the beach and wrestling kids into rash guards. But even with all of that, you’ll likely be shocked by the new viral “In the Sun” doc from Neutrogena that shines a big ol’ light on the sun-safety mistake that so many of us are making: Focusing all of our protection attention on the summer months alone. Here’s why that’s a dangerous habit.

Temperature doesn’t factor into the burn  

While we naturally associate summer’s heat with sunburn, damaging UV rays can’t actually be felt. (Mind blowing, right?) The burn of the summer’s sun is actually due to infrared radiation which, weirdly enough, does not cause sunburn. In short, exposure to the sun during the winter puts you at the very same risk as exposure during the summer, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

Cloudy days aren’t safer 

The truth is, up to 80% of harmful UVB and UVA rays burn right through the clouds, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. And that’s not cloudy summer days, mind you, but any cloudy day. In fact, light or thin clouds may even enhance UV levels because of the way clouds scatter the light, notes the World Health Organization.

Windy days up the burn factor 

Windburn? Are you sure? It turns out that chapped, red, wintery faces are likely sporting sunburns in disguise. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that wind can actually reduce your skin’s natural sun protection, allowing more of the sun’s UV rays to penetrate and damage the skin.

The snow increases UV exposure 

A sunny, snowy day is doubly dangerous for your skin. Why? The white stuff reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV light, so that means that the sun’s cancer-causing and age-accelerating rays hit you twice. You know what also does this? Sand and water.

Car windows only offer so much protection

While all windows do a pretty fab job of shielding you from sunburn-causing UVB radiation and coated windshields block over 90% of UVA radiation, your car’s side windows offer about 25% less protection from UVA rays, according to a report in JAMA Ophthalmology. And all of that on-the-road exposure adds up: In America, skin cancers are more common on the left side of the face and body, reports a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The left side, of course, is exposed to UV rays through the driver’s side window.

Year-round sun adds up

It’s totally true that sunburn plays a clear and significant role in your chances of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. We know that even one blister-causing burn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your melanoma chances. (The same stat holds true for folks who’ve clocked five plus burns in childhood and beyond.) But here’s the thing: Research shows that cumulative exposure to UV rays increases risk of developing skin cancer, too. And, let’s get vain for a minute: The main reason we’ve got wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots is because of repeated, daily exposure to UV rays. That’s called photoaging, and it’s responsible for 90% of the visible changes to our skin.

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So can we all finally agree that the sun is dangerous year-round, no matter the weather nor the season? Good. Now we need to start treating it that way, because right now we’re not. The Neutrogena doc notes that 1 in 5 Americans will eventually get skin cancer during their lives, and according to the American Cancer Society, the number of new invasive melanoma cases diagnosed annually increased by 44% over the past 10 years. Increased! That’s despite our fashion-y rashguards! But when you look at the year-round sunscreen numbers, those stats start making sense. According to a 2019 report, only 10% of adults use sunscreen daily, and 47% never wear sunscreen. More than half of the sunscreen-shunners don’t think they get enough sun exposure to require protection (um, see above people!) and 18% say they don’t like how sunscreen feels on the skin.

Okay, it’s true that some sunscreens are sticky and gross and leave you looking like someone smeared you in craft glue. But, come on, there’s so much innovation out there. For instance, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Mist Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55 is sheer (no white smears that linger!), non-comedogenic, totally non-greasy, and it doesn’t smell like vacation, making it a no-brainer for daily wear. (Its sister spray, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray with Broad Spectrum SPF 70, delivers the same sheer, natural glow and grease-free protection, but for the whole body.) 

So, yes, stock up on sunscreen during the summer, but when it’s time to put away the swimsuits and beach pails, keep your sunscreen out. Toss one in your makeup bag, keep another in your purse, have one more waiting for the family in the entryway or the mudroom for a quick once over before the daily skedaddle. Your skin will thank you.

This article was created by SheKnows for Neutrogena.

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