Sometimes no matter how much sunscreen you slather on, you end up with an annoying (and at times, painful) sunburn. Yes, there are products to relieve or soothe it, but how about avoiding sun damage in the first place? According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), although the redness and pain will eventually go away, sunburns "can cause long-standing damage to the skin. This damage increases a person's risk for getting skin cancer, making it critical to protect the skin from the sun."
So how can you avoid a sunburn without being forced to stay inside when the weather is sunny and beautiful? We've rounded up some practical and useful tips.
Know the Sun's Peak Hours
"The sun is extremely strong, not just from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., believe it or not," says Julie Karen, MD, FAAD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. With that in mind, make sure you're seeking shade every now and then, applying enough sunscreen, and wearing sun-protective clothing.
Choose Your Sunscreen Carefully
The AAD recommends you choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which means it can protect against both UVA and UVB rays. They also recommend purchasing one that is SPF 30 or higher and that is water-resistant.
Apply… Then Reapply
"A single application of sunscreen is not nearly sufficient. Reapplication is imperative," advises Karen. The AAD advises reapplying sunscreen "approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating."
To apply correctly, make sure you put it on 15 minutes before you go outside—that will give your skin enough time to absorb the sunscreen. The AAD says most adults need one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) to adequately protect your whole body. You should rub it all over your body, even those parts that you might normally miss like your ears, neck, and tops of your feet and legs.
Don't Underestimate Cloudy Days
"You can get sunburned on overcast and cloudy days. Higher UV index is more harm and danger, but several hours of unprotected sun exposure even on cloudy/not sunny days can cause significant damage," says Karen.
Wear Protective Clothing
"Sunscreen alone does not protect against sun damage and sunburn—sun-protective clothing and seeking the shade are equally important," Karen says. While a baseball cap can help, she suggests choosing a broad-brimmed hat, one with at least a three-inch brim.