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6 summer skin care slip-ups

Here’s how to goof-proof your sun protection routine

Published: May 30, 2015 06:00 AM

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Good summer skin care mostly comes down to one thing: use sunscreen. It seems like an easy thing to do (except for covering your own back, of course), but many people are confused about the right way to protect their skin from the sun. Not using sunscreen correctly can leave you vulnerable to burning in the short term and wrinkles and skin cancer in the long term. Get summer skin care savvy by avoiding these common sunscreen slip-ups.

Slip-up 1: Applying it outdoors

EASY FIX. Rub in sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes or more before going outside, so that it has time to be fully absorbed into your skin. To limit staining, allow it to dry before putting on your clothing or swimsuit. Almost all of the sunscreens in our tests stained fabric.

Slip-up 2: Skimping

EASY FIX. To get the promised SPF, you need to apply sunscreen liberally, like the woman pictured is doing. Use a dollop of lotion the size of a golf ball for your entire body. If you aren’t baring that much skin, use a teaspoon per body part. Prefer a spray? Cover yourself twice and rub it in to make sure you didn’t miss a spot.

Slip-up 3: Lubing up just once

EASY FIX. Forty percent of people in a 2014 survey from the Consumer Reports' National Research Center said they never reapply sunscreen when they’re in the sun for much of the day. That’s a mistake. For full protection, reapply it every 2 hours (or after you get wet), no matter what SPF you use.

Get information on the best performing sunscreens in our sunscreens ratings and check out all our skin-saving advice in our sun safety guide.

Slip-up 4: Going without it on cool, cloudy, or nonbeach days

EASY FIX. If you’re outside, 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. 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.

Slip-up 5: Thinking that sunscreen is all you need

EASY FIX. Sunscreen should be used as part of a complete sun protection regimen that also includes sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and clothing. Also try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when you’re most likely to get burned.

Slip-up 6: Assuming that you can hang out in the sun all day

EASY FIX. Exceeding a sunscreen’s maximum protection time—it depends on your sun exposure and skin type—can lead to burning. So if you normally burn after 10 minutes without any protection and have been using an SPF 30 sunscreen for 5 hours, your best choice isn’t to reapply it but to cover up or seek some shade.

—Karyn Repinski

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