If there was something you could do to keep skin smooth and brown-spot-free and protect it from potentially lethal cancer, and it cost only a few dollars, you’d think everyone would be doing it. Well, there is something you can do: Wear sunscreen.

Why then, do most Americans—53 percent, according to a new nationally-representative survey of 1,000 people from the Consumer Reports National Research Center—rarely or never touch the stuff? One reason is that there’s some confusion out there—8 percent of those who don’t wear sunscreen gave not knowing how or not knowing when to use it as a reason. But even people who do know the rules don’t always follow them because they find using sunscreen to be inconvenient or unpleasant. Unfortunately, that leaves them vulnerable to burning in the short term, and wrinkles and skin cancer over the long term.

Whether you need a sunscreen refresher course or solutions to a pesky pet peeve, we’ve got tips to help you avoid some of the biggest sunscreen slip-ups.  

Slip-Up 1: Using the Ick Factor as an Excuse. The smell of sunscreen or the way it looks or feels on their skin is an issue for 27 percent of sunscreen skippers in our survey. That’s a problem that’s easily solved. In our most recent sunscreen tests, we found many highly effective and esthetically pleasing products. For example, Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50 is a good choice for people who hate that greasy feel. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk is fragrance free and didn’t leave an oily sheen on skin.  

Slip-Up 2: Thinking You Don't Need Sunscreen Because You Don't Burn. About a third of people who don’t use sunscreen falsely believe their dark skin or tendency not to burn is protection enough. Even if you’re not burning, exposure to ultraviolet light can still damage skin. For example, African-Americans are 10 times less likely than Caucasians to develop non-melanoma skin cancer, but they are more likely to die from it with an 18 percent higher mortality rate over five years than Caucasians.  

Slip-Up 3: Believing That the Chemicals in Sunscreen Are More Harmful Than the Sun. Twenty percent of people who avoid sunscreen cite concern about toxicity as a rationale, but the risk of any possible adverse effect from the ingredient is far lower than the risk of getting skin cancer if you go without sunscreen. Some chemical UV filters, such as octinoxate and oxybenzone, have been found to cause hormonal changes in animals; however, short-term research in people did not show any adverse effect. And one large animal study found that retinyl palmitate, one of a group of chemical compounds related to vitamin A called retinoids, may become carcinogenic when exposed to light. But that hasn’t been studied in people. Taking pills that contain retinoids for skin conditions such as acne has been linked to birth defects, so pregnant women may want to avoid sunscreens with retinyl palmitate. 

Slip-Up 4: Rubbing It on Just Once. For full protection you need to do three things. 1) Rub in sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes or more before going outside, so that it has time to be fully absorbed into your skin. 2) Apply sunscreen liberally—use a dollop of lotion the size of a golf ball for your entire body. Use less and you won’t get the promised SPF. 3) And yes, reapply every 2 hours (or after you get wet), no matter what SPF you use. About 20 percent of survey respondents who skimped on sunscreen did so because they think it’s a pain to reapply. However, slathering it on just once is better than not slathering it on at all.  

Slip-Up 5: Going Without on Non-Beach Days. Half of the people in our survey who didn’t use sunscreen said it was because they rarely or never went to the beach or a pool. However, if you’re outside for more than a few minutes, you should be wearing sunscreen. After all, incidental UV exposure(like when you’re walking your dog) accounts for as much as 80 percent of your lifetime exposure. And that accumulation is linked to skin cancer and aging. And use it, even if it’s cool or cloudy out. UV radiation is invisible, so it doesn’t need to be warm or sunny to cause real damage. In fact, up to 80 percent of UV rays penetrate through clouds.