It’s the Fourth of July holiday weekend and many Americans will be celebrating outside at parades, family barbeques and beach bashes.
With a dangerous and historic heatwave scorching parts of the U.S., it is important to stay protected against the sun’s powerful rays.
What’s the best sunscreen for you? How long does the protection last? When should it be reapplied?
Here’s what you need to know about sunscreen before you lather up and head to your outdoor celebrations.
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How does sunscreen work?
Sunscreen is a vital tool in protecting skin from the sun’s dangerous rays.
Sunscreen significantly reduces exposure to the sun and lowers the risk of sunburn, skin cancer and early skin aging by limiting the amount of harmful UVA and UVB rays that reach the earth.
Whether in the form of a cream, gel or spray, all sunscreens are giving a sun protection factor. This SPF number indicates how well the protectant blocks out UV rays. The higher the number, the higher the protection.
Medical experts at the Skin Cancer Foundation say the daily use of a SPF 15 sunscreen or higher can reduce the risk melanoma risk by 50, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
How long does sunscreen last?
All sunscreens eventually wash off, especially when swimming or sweating.
Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before going outside, experts say. This gives the protectant enough time to provide the maximum strength. Then, it should be reapplied at least every two hours, and more if in the water.
According to federal guidelines, all sunscreen labels must provide directions on when it should be reapplied. Labels must also state whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating.
It is important to note that there is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen.
What is the best sunscreen?
Experts say the best type of sunscreen is one that can be used again and again. If it offers protection against UVA and UVB rays and has the recommended SPF, the type of sunscreen used is more of personal choice.
Here is a list of recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology Association that could be used to help make the best choice.
- Creams are best for dry skin and the face.
- Gels are good for hairy areas, such as the scalp or male chest.
- Sticks are good to use around the eyes.
- Sprays are sometimes preferred by parents since they are easy to apply to children. (Make sure to use enough of these products to thoroughly cover all exposed skin.)
- There also are sunscreens made for specific purposes, such as for sensitive skin and babies.