Here's Why You're Applying Sunscreen All Wrong

Apparently, the simplest tasks are the easiest to mess up.

Everyone knows that applying sunscreen when it's sunny outside is absolutely crucial to reducing the risk of skin cancer, as well as warding off early signs of aging like dark spots and wrinkles. But, according to a new study published in Acta Dermato-Venereologica, most of us aren't putting it on properly.

Researchers analyzed previous studies and found that people typically only apply about 0.75 milligrams per centimeters squared of the lotion onto their skin, which means that they're only getting about 40 percent of the protection they need. The researchers analyzed the DNA damage of 16 volunteers who wore sunscreen at varying levels of thickness and were exposed to different levels of UV radiation. Skin biopsies revealed that those who wore a thicker level of sunscreen experienced much more protection from damage, even when exposed to UV levels that mimic several days in the sun, than those who had only applied the thin layer that sunbathers typically use.

In order to shield yourself from these harmful ultraviolet rays, you need to be layering about two milligrams per square centimeter. That translates to about two tablespoons for your entire body, a nickel-sized dollop of which should be used for your face, though it depends on your size.

Of course, it's also pivotal to cover every inch of your body, which most people are too lazy to do. It's also crucial to choose a sunscreen that has both that has broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection, since many only offer protection from UVB rays, which cause sunburn, but not UVA rays, which cause wrinkles. Don't forget to reapply every two hours that you spend in the sun, as well as after swimming.

As for the SPF strength, the Skin Cancer Foundation claims SPF 30 sunscreen is strong enough to block out almost 97 percent of UVB radiation while still guaranteeing that you get a little color. But Antony Young, professor of experimental photobiology at King's College London and lead author on the study, told The Guardian that, "given that most people don't use sunscreens as tested by manufacturers, it's better for people to use a much higher SPF than they think is necessary,"

If you feel like sunscreen lotions are too much of a hassle, you might want to opt for a spray. Even then, however, it's important to spray each area for roughly six seconds, which is four more than most people actually do. You might also want to buy sprays in bulk because, at six seconds per area, you're likely to run out fast.

For more great tips on having fun in the sun, check out the 13 Things You Should Never Do at the Beach, and, while you're at it, don't miss the 20 Ways a Sunburn Harms Your Overall Health.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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