Mistake: You only apply sunscreen when you know you’ll be outside
“Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine 365 days a year. The number-one mistake I see is people using sunscreen only when they go to the beach or spend time outside,” says Cheryl Gustafson, MD, chief dermatology resident at Emory University and spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation. The sun’s rays can still reach your skin, for example, while you drive or sit by a window. Case in point: A recent University of Washington study found that more than half of cases of melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (two deadly types of skin cancer) occurred on the left side of the body—the side more exposed to UV light when driving. (In Australia, where cars drive on the opposite side of the street, research has found skin cancer is more common on the right side of the body). To get in the habit of applying sunscreen every day, Dr. Gustafson suggests finding a body and facial moisturizer that contains at least SPF 15. Apply it daily after you shower. Got sunburned accidentally? Give one of these sunburn home remedies a try.
Mistake: You assume applying a high SPF means you can spend more time in the sun
If you coat yourself in SPF 75 or 80, you can safely stay out in the sun longer, right? Um, no. “Some experts believe that higher numbers, such as SPFs 75, 90, and 100, give people a false sense of security,” Connecticut dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, told Prevention. One study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that people who used an SPF 30 spent up to 25 percent longer in the sun than those who slathered on SPF 10, which means a greater risk of sunburn as well as skin damage you can’t see. Stick to SPF 30 and reapply at least every two hours, or more frequently if you’ve been in the water, says Dr. Gustafson. The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends a minimum of SPF 30, which blocks 97 percent of UVB rays, and a maximum of SPF 50, which blocks 98 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. “As you get higher and higher, it’s not really a practical difference,” David M. Pariser, MD, past president of the American Academy of Dermatology told the New York Times. Quit falling for these 10 sunscreen myths that make dermatologists cringe.