Everything You Need to Know About Protecting Your Skin This Spring and Summer

After a long and wet winter, the cold is eroding and the sun is coming out. That’s cause for celebration for most people. When spring is in the air, people are ready to get outside and enjoy the day. This means it is time to think seriously about protecting your skin. Although there is more awareness about the harmfulness of the sun, the incidences of skin cancer have continued to rise over the last 30 years. The rate of invasive melanoma diagnoses has increased by 54 percent between 2009 and 2019. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

You probably think you know how to protect yourself, but there are many facts that people overlook. Here are the surprising things you need to know about protecting your skin this spring and summer.


  1. SPF is measured according to how much protection it gives in comparison to skin with no protection.


The acronym “SPF” stands for sun protection factor. The sun’s rays are damaging to your health in two key ways. The first is from UVA rays, which are long rays which cause premature aging. The second is from UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. UVB rays burn the superficial layers of the skin. Each burn increases the likelihood of serious damage.

SPF works like this: an SPF of 15 will block about 93 percent of UVB radiation. As the SPF number goes up, so does its ability to block sun. This means an SPF of 30 should block about 97 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. Another way to think of this is that a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 allows a person to 30 more times sun protection than a person with no sun protection.

  1. Not all sunscreens work on both rays.

Not all sunscreens offer protection for both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure the sunscreen you choose offers “broad spectrum” protection.

  1. No sunscreen is “waterproof.”

Sunscreens are not waterproof and the FDA ordered manufacturers to stop using words indicating that the sunscreen will not wear off. No sunscreen is permanent.

However, manufacturers still use words indicating that their product has a degree of water resistance. If a product is labeled “water resistant” it usually means that the sunscreen will last about 40 minutes in water before needing to be reapplied. If it is labeled as “very water resistant” the product lasts around 80 minutes. In either case, the rule of thumb is that you should try to reapply the product after you get out of the water.

Generally, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours at a minimum.

  1. There are two kinds of sunscreen.

You may notice that some sunscreens are labeled as “chemical” but others are labeled “physical.” This refers to how the product interacts with your skin. Physical sunscreens put an actual physical barrier between the sun’s rays and your skin. These sunscreens traditionally look like white powder because they contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. People who are very fair with sensitive skin should opt for a physical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens are better for people with rosacea, redness or other skin conditions, since they deflect the sun’s heat. At the same time, these sunscreens typically are much easier to rub off. If you are using a physical sunscreen, be sure to reapply frequently, especially as you sweat or get in the water.

Chemical protection uses ingredients such as oxybenzone or octinoxate, which convert the rays into heat and then return them back into the atmosphere. Although chemical sunscreen lasts longer than physical ones, it may cause discoloration or dark spots on the skin because it literally converts the sun’s rays and heats up your skin. You should also be aware that Hawaii became the first state to ban sunscreens using oxybenzone and octinoxate because they may degrade coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean.

Most modern sunscreens do a combination of both physical and chemical sunscreens. If you are unsure, read the label.

  1. You aren’t applying enough sunscreen.

Experts say most people do not apply enough sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using one ounce – or enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass — to all areas that are exposed to the sun. If you don’t think you can measure it out correctly, experts suggest waiting ten minutes after the first application and then applying a second coat. Spray sunscreens are easier to apply but people tend to apply too little.

  1. You should apply sunscreen year round.

Although we are suggesting you use sunscreen because we are heading into spring and summer, experts say you should wear it year round, and even when it is not sunny. The sun’s rays can penetrate clouds and those invisible rays tend to be more dangerous. The dangerousness of the sun’s rays has nothing to do with how warm the temperature is – this means that even on a spring day where it is 60 degrees, you can still get a sunburn or experience sun damage.

Although everyone looks better with a tan, a tan is your body actually being damaged. There are many ways to get a fake tan that are far safer than being out in the sun.

  1. Sunscreen is not the only game in town.

Although people tend to focus exclusively on using sunscreen, there are other ways to protect your skin. UV light is at its most intense during the hours of 10am and 4pm. If possible, avoid the sun during these hours. If you do have to be in the sun, find shade. Wearing sunglasses is essential as it will protect the delicate skin around your eyes and shield your face. You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.

Wearing clothing is also a good protection from the sun. Tight-woven clothing provides greater protection, and dark, dry clothing works best. (A good rule of thumb is “tight, dark and dry.”) You can also buy special clothing which carries a “UPF” rating. UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor, which ranges from 15 to over 50. Just like the SPF, a higher number indicates greater protection. The UPF is based on the density of the fiber, such as thread count per inch, as well as whether the clothing is coated with a UV-inhibiting ingredient.


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