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All About Sunscreen: Do You Really Know How to Protect Your Family's Skin This Summer?

choosing the right sunscreen

Summer is officially here, which means most American families will soon be enjoying quality time together -- usually in the great outdoors. Spending time in the sun can be great for your health in so many ways. However, there can be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to the sun. If you want to prioritize your family's well-being this season (and for many years to come), you'll certainly want to focus on sun protection.

You might keep sunscreen in the house and help your kids apply it (when you remember, that is)... but are you doing everything you can to keep those damaging rays from doing lasting harm? Here are a few tips you'll want to keep in mind throughout this season to keep your loved ones safe whenever they go outside.

Pick the Right SPF

As a parent, you might be a bit choosy about the kinds of ingredients you might find in your sunscreen. Oils in concentrations of 1% to 99% can be found in most skin creams and sun protection products, but you may be more worried about the other chemical ingredients found in these items. Given the FDA's recent proposal to require sunscreen manufacturers to disclose additional safety information about the ingredients found in these products, it's understandable that many families might wonder whether what's in their sunblock is safe. Fortunately, you don't have to worry about any non-compliant ingredients being included in legally sold sunscreen within the United States. However, you might want to pay closer attention to another component of sunblock: the SPF.

The SPF, or sun protection factor, tells you how well the product in question blocks out harmful UVB rays from the sun. You should have a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, though most medical professionals recommend having an SPF of 30 or higher. It's important to note, however, that a product with a very high SPF (e.g., SPF 100) provides only a small increase in protection over SPF 30 and SPF 50. Most people believe that these products are twice as effective, but that actually isn't the case. You may end up paying a lot more for a product that's only marginally better. No matter what SPF is on the bottle, you should make certain that the sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection, which means the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and that the product is water-resistant.

Apply Sunscreen Properly

Several studies have found that the majority of us don't really apply sunscreen the correct way. Whether or not you realize it, a poor application can have drastic consequences. Although the skin renews itself every 28 days, the dangers of missing a spot with your sunscreen can result in lifelong damage or even skin cancer. Adults should use roughly one ounce of sunscreen per application, which should be applied to all exposed areas of skin (including the neck, face, ears, and tops of the feet). Make sure to give and get help with applying the product on the back and other hard-to-reach areas. Those with thinning hair should apply sunscreen on the scalp, while a lip balm with SPF should be applied to the lips. The product(s) should be applied 15 minutes prior to going outside to allow the sunscreen enough time to absorb. After swimming, sweating, or two hours of wear, sunscreen should be reapplied. Make sure to put these products on even when the sun isn't out, as sunburn can easily happen on overcast days.

Think Beyond Sunblock

Of course, using the correct sunscreen and applying it properly is essential. But sunblock isn't the only method that can protect your skin from sunburn. For example, protective clothing can do wonders for many people; hats, beach umbrellas, sunglasses, and long-sleeved clothing can ensure fair individuals won't risk turning red. You may also want to add certain antioxidant-rich foods to your diet, as these components are anti-aging and anti-inflammatory. Experts add that green tea, red grapes, berries, and vitamins C and E can offer natural sun protection, decrease cell damage that leads to aging effects, and even reduce sun cancer risk.

Of course, you may also want to cut back on sun exposure altogether. Since 87% of U.S. households have air conditioning, you'll want to spend some time cooling off indoors -- particularly during the most notorious hours for sun damage. Seeking shade can help, but you should really get out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, as that's when UV rays are at their strongest (and the temperatures are typically hottest). Make sure to take plenty of breaks to hydrate, reapply sunblock, and rest to avoid too much sun or heat exposure.

Although worrying about sun protection might be your kids' least favorite activity, ensuring they're properly protected will promote lifelong health. Armed with these tips, you and your family will be able to enjoy a summer that's both fun and skin-safe.