Don't Get Burned: 5 Sunscreen Mistakes You're Making
The slipup: Grabbing coffee without reapplying SPF
It's only a 10-minute walk. Surely that amount of sun can't hurt you. Wrong! "Every one of those 10-minute exposures does harm, because they accumulate and lead to DNA damage over time," says Elizabeth F. Callahan, MD, a FITNESS advisory board member and a dermatologist in Sarasota, Florida. A cloudy day isn't an exemption, notes Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "UVA rays penetrate the atmosphere 365 days a year and can accelerate premature aging of the skin and contribute to skin cancer development," she says.
Your skin-saving fix: If you applied broad-spectrum SPF in the morning, a touch-up before heading outside is a must if it's been two hours or more. "Keep a mineral-based sunscreen in your purse for easy reapplication," Dr. Hale says. Try a translucent formula such as Brush On Block Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen ($30, brushonblock.com), and dust on a generous coating. A pressed-powder option: Shiseido Limited Edition UV Protective Compact Foundation Case SPF 36 ($36, shiseido.com).
The slipup: Skipping SPF when you're indoors
When you know you'll be going from the car to the office and back again, it's tempting to forgo sunscreen altogether. The problem? UV light can travel right through the windows of your car and office, says Julie Ann Woodward, MD, an associate professor of ophthalmology and dermatology and the chief of oculofacial surgery at Duke University. "There are famous photographs of people who sat by the same window for years and got terrible sun damage on one side of their face and not on the other," she says.
Your skin-saving fix: Apply a mineral-based sunscreen in the morning. Choose one that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which block the sun's rays, and you won't need to reapply it every two hours the way you would any other SPF, Dr. Woodward says. The reason: Nonmineral sunscreen has chemicals in it that act like a sponge to absorb UV radiation, she explains. Once "full" -- usually after two or three hours -- it needs to be reapplied. Mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, is like a mirror that reflects light off the surface of your skin. "It doesn't require reapplication as often," Dr. Woodward says. "To be safe, put it on in the morning and again before you head outdoors." Try Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 ($42, drunkelephant.com) or MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 30 UVA-UVB Sunscreen ($32, sephora.com).
The slipup: Wearing only sunnies to protect your eyes
Your new sunglasses are supposed to block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, but that's not always a sure thing. "The FDA isn't strict about regulating this, so that claim might not be accurate," Dr. Woodward says. Chronic sun exposure not only causes wrinkles around your eyes but also cataracts and cancer. "I find a lot of skin cancers right along the lash line," Dr. Woodward notes. And unless you wear wraparound sunglasses, the sides of your face will be exposed to the sun.
Your skin-saving fix: Coat the skin under your eyes and on your lids with new, nonirritating sunscreen formulas designed for the delicate eye area, Dr. Callahan says. Choose one that's mineral-based, which is gentler, and labeled "nonslip," meaning it won't migrate into your eyes. Try SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense ($30, skinceuticals.com).
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