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Five Simple Tips to Remember Sunscreen

A study released this week by the American Academy of Dermatology looked at sunscreen use. Seems despite all the public outreach and education, we are failing in our anti-skin cancer measures. “It is quite alarming that fewer than half of women and less than 20% of men regularly use sunscreen on the face.”

At this point, I think most Americans understand the importance of sun protection on a hot day, whether it be in the form of SPF 30+, hats, clothing or simply seeking shade. What is just as important to know is the cumulative effect of UV exposure. Any time you are outdoors, even when you are driving or sitting near a window, you are accumulating sun damage. Getting in the habit of using sunscreen year round will increase your chances of avoiding skin cancer. It will also keep you looking younger. Even with these benefits, it is easy to forget.

Take note of these five simple tips to make it easier to remember.

  1. Find a sunscreen you love. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a great sunscreen, and truthfully, the more affordable it is, the more likely you will be apply it liberally. Look for one with an SPF 30 or higher, with a non-greasy feel and great smell. You may love the smell of coconut in the summer, but it might turn you off in the winter. You will be more inclined to use it if you like the way it smells and feels.

  2. Make it part of your routine. Keep sunscreen near other products you use on a daily basis. If you get in the habit of putting it on right after the shower, you will be more inclined to apply it to all areas of exposed skin, not just the face. For women, apply sunscreen before putting on makeup. Wait 3-5 minutes before applying another product. For men, keep sunscreen near your razor or deodorant. You may want to opt for a more “manly” scent to avoid smelling like a tiki bar, or try this unscented onefrom Kiehl’s. It is really important for men to remember the tops of the ears and the bald spot — not saying you have one, but just in case.

  3. Keep small bottles handy in convenient places. Sunscreen ideally should be reapplied every couple hours. By keeping some in your car, your gym bag, your purse or your desk drawer, you will be reminded to reapply. If you’ve received sunscreen as promotional item, make sure it is not expired and provides adequate protection. Click here for some tips on reapplying over makeup.

  4. Use combination products. Streamline your routine by using combination moisturizer and sunscreen, or a makeup with sunscreen. If you are going to be out in the hot sun or swimming, you’ll need additional protection, but for the every day, you can opt for the combos. Just be sure the SPF is at least 30, the coverage is broad spectrum and you apply not only to your face, but to other exposed areas. From a superficial standpoint, no matter how great your face looks, your décolletage and your hands will belie your age. I love Neutrogena Healthy Defense with light tint, especially during the cold months. Note to men: a little tint never hurt anyone in the dead of winter.

  5. Put a copy of this photo on your mirror, or at least commit it to memory. This is the face of a truck driver. The left side of his face shows severe signs of sun damage. The right, away from his window, is significantly less effected. He was not sunbathing, simply going about his daily routine, and the results are telling.

  6. Think of sunscreen as you think of exercise, putting on your seatbelt or taking a vitamin. It is important for your health and it is not going to apply itself.

About Dr. Karen Latimer

I’m a family physician now struggling to take care of a bunch of kids who keep calling me Mom. When I’m not wiping butts, refereeing sibling rivalry and chauffeuring over-scheduled little people, I write a family medical blog that gives you five thoughts on all sorts of different health topics.

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