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Sunscreen: The 10 Commandments of sun protection

Sun worshippers, take heed: Summer is upon us! You must protect your delicate skin from the sun’s harsh rays, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide inside all season. Here, we offer the expertise of Dr. Neel Patel with Southwest Skin Specialists in Scottsdale, Arizona. This summer, enjoy the sun — but never, ever break these 10 commandments of sunscreen.

Woman applying sunscreen

10 Things you need to know about sunscreen

Use plenty of sunscreenNutrogena Ultra Sheer Spray Sun ProtectionThou shalt not skimp

According to Dr. Patel, “Most people only apply 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. The average person should apply 1 ounce, or one shot-glass, of sunscreen per application. Be sure to apply 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. A 12-ounce bottle should only last for 12 applications. Don’t forget the ears, lips, neck, nose, hands and feet.”

He suggests Elta MD 30 and 41 for daily use because they go well with cosmetics, as well as Ocean Potion Face and Neutrogena Ultrasheer Body Mist, which are ideal for those with acne-prone skin. Dr. Patel adds, “Avoid spray sunscreens on the face, if possible.”

Reapply sunscreen oftenThou shalt reapply frequently

Don’t assume that once you’ve slathered on one coat of sunscreen, you are good to go for the whole day. In fact, Dr. Patel says sunscreen should be applied every two hours.

Always use sun protectionThou shalt not use “i don’t burn, I tan” as an excuse

Just because you may not burn easily, doesn’t mean your complexion protects you from UV damage or skin cancer. Dr. Patel says, “One’s ability to tan does not confer immunity to skin cancer. Furthermore, sunscreen prevents premature aging of the skin in all skin types.”

Apply sunscreen even when it's cloudyThou shalt apply, even on cold, cloudy days

According to Dr. Patel, “Sunscreen should be applied everyday. Though windows filter UVB, we are incurring UVA damage while driving or next to a window at work. Since many skin cancers are the result of cumulative ultraviolet exposure, the small amounts of sunlight we get on a daily basis can result in tumors later in life.”

So don’t take any chances. And don’t slack on your sunscreen routine if it’s overcast. You might feel a false sense of security when the clouds are covering up the sun, but that’s no time to skip the sunscreen. Dr. Patel points out that “80 percent of ultraviolet radiation is present on cloudy days. Water and snow can reflect 80 percent of UV radiation. Sand reflects 25 percent.”

Read the label on your sunscreen bottleThou shalt read thy labels

Whether you are selecting a natural, organic, chemical-free or commercial sunscreen, there are a few things you should be sure your sunscreen includes. Dr. Patel advises, “Make sure that sunscreen has high concentrations of zinc and titanium for broad spectrum UVA/UVB coverage.


Though vitamins E and C are good free radical scavengers and help minimize DNA injury, their effectiveness is highly dependent on their purity, stability and concentration, which are not reported on most products. I believe that both traditional and organic sunscreens can be effective and safe based on their ingredients.” For a natural alternative, check out BareMinerals SPF 30 Natural sunscreen.

But don’t feel you need to spend a wad of cash to get the best results when it comes to sunscreen protection. Dr. Patel maintains that while price matters a little, “ingredients are the most important aspect.” He suggests major brands, such as Blue Lizard, Vanicream, or Ortho-Neutrogena.

Wear a minimum of SPF 30Thou shalt wear a minimum of SPF 30

Dr. Patel reminds, “SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of UVB protection not UVA protection. A SPF 15 filters 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters 97 percent, SPF 50+ filters 99 percent. I recommend a minimum of SPF 30 with UVA/UVB coverage for daily use and 50+ for greater than one hour of outdoor exposure during the peak UV hours (10 am to 4 pm).”

If you notice burning or tanning, he recommends you make sure that the sunscreen has been correctly applied, verify good UVA/UVB coverage and increase the SPF rating. Try Bioré Skin Preservation Dual Fusion Moisturizer + SPF 30, which does double duty – it protects while it hydrates.

And, we know what you’re thinking – can’t we just tan a little with an SPF 6 or 8? Not according to Dr. Patel: “There is no such thing as a safe tan unless it is artificial. Always consult a physician in regards to adequate vitamin D supplementation when photoprotecting the skin.” Not the answer we were hoping for, but there’s always self-tanning. Which reminds us…

Try a self-tanner to get the perfect glowDior Bronze Self TannerThou shalt not smite thy self-tanner

Sure, self-tanner has gotten a bad rep for leaving us smelly, streaky and looking like a carrot (so not sexy!). But self-tanner has actually come a long way! Fake Bake self-tanning lotion includes fruit acids that mask the unwanted odor of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), and the organic lavender and chamomile-infused 302 self-tanner leaves skin smelling fresh sans the stink.

Make sure you apply sunscreen all overThou shalt not forget thy hair, lips, eyes, hands and feet

Did you miss a spot? Probably. Most people cover only a certain percentage of their body, leaving some parts vulnerable to serious burn – particularly your hair, lips, eyes, hands and feet. In fact, Dr. Patel says, “The lower lip and scalp are in direct view of the sun. Consider a hat or spray sunscreen to protect the scalp. If you use a spray, use your hand to massage [the product] into the scalp. Always use a lip balm with SPF 30 on the lips and reapply regularly.”


UVA rays can also disturb the hair’s strength and elasticity, burn the hair cuticle and cause your tresses to be dry, brittle and lifeless; UVB rays can cause both natural and chemical colors to fade. So protect your hair with products such as Pureology Hydrate shampoo with UVA/UVB sunscreens, and Paul Mitchell Color Protect Locking Spray, which offers both UVA and UVB protection. And don’t forget to protect your peepers with UV-filtered eyewear!

Opt for clothing with a UPF for added sun protectionThou shalt give UPF clothing a try

Dr. Patel says that clothing rated with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), which includes both UVA and UVB, is “one of the most effective ways to protect the skin, because it does Coppertone sport sweatproof sunblocknot wash off and require reapplication.” He says that the rating of the UPF clothing is highly dependent on fabric, weave and color of the item.

He also recommends Rit SunGuard, a wash-in product which, when added to a load of laundry, confers a UPF 30 to clothing for up to 20 washes.

Be cautious of waterproof sunscreenThou shalt not assume that waterproof is… Waterproof

Even if the product says it’s waterproof, you should still reapply sunscreen after you’ve taken a dip, toweled off or even if you’ve just been perspiring heavily. After a few hours, the “waterproof” part can fade away.

Now that we’ve saved your soul (and skin) from burning under the sun’s wrath, we think it fitting to part with this new, totally dreamy song, fittingly called “Sunburn,” by Owl City. Load it in your iPod, slather on the sunscreen and you’re ready for the beach!

Get 100s more of our best beauty tips to live by, all in one place!>>

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