With summer right around the corner and beach season in full swing, it's important to remember to take care of the largest organ in our body—our skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), everyone should wear sunscreen in order to prevent skin cancer. Over 3.5 million skin cancers in more than two million peoples are diagnosed each year, and most of these cases can be avoided by protecting the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are emitted year-round, rain or shine.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, the value of how well a sunscreen protects the skin from UVB rays. Though SPF ranges from 5 to 100, most dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or 30 and reapplying every two hours, and after swimming or sweating. And don't be shy with your sunscreen—many people make the mistake of not applying enough, thereby only getting partial protection of what their sunscreen has to offer. The AAD recommends following the one ounce—enough to fill a shot glass—as a guideline for the amount of sunscreen to apply.
The AAD also recommends selecting a sunscreen that offers "broad-spectrum" protection to keep the skin safe from both UVA and UVB rays. SPF only measures the amount of protection from UVB rays, and UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging.
"Make sure your sunscreen has a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher," says the American Cancer Society on its website. "Higher SPF numbers do mean more protection, but the higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%, SPF 50 sunscreens about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. No sunscreen protects you completely. The FDA requires any sunscreen with SPF below 15 to carry a warning that it only protects against sunburn, not skin cancer or skin aging."
Don't forget about your mouth! The AAD recommends using a chapstick or lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect the lips from skin cancer. You don't have to rely solely on sunscreen to protect your skin either—long-sleeved shirts, pants, brimmed hats, and sunglasses help combat UV rays, and taking some time to enjoy the shade will also give your skin a much needed break from the sun.