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Are you using sunscreen the right way?

You've probably heard the advice over and over throughout your life – don't forget to put sunscreen on before you go to the beach, the pool, the ball game or to some other outdoor event. But the truth is that to protect your skin as much as possible, it's good to get into the habit of applying sunscreen all the time. That means every day, no matter what the season, the weather or where you are headed.

See how sunscreen savvy you are with this true or false quiz:

I only need sunscreen if I'm going to be outside for a long time.

The sun's rays can damage skin in as little as 15 minutes and unprotected sun exposure can lead to sunburn, wrinkles, sun spots and skin cancer. Children are more sensitive to the sun than adults – and having one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than doubles the risk of melanoma.

I only need to apply sunscreen if it is sunny and hot outside.

The sun's UV rays can harm your skin on cloudy days as well as sunny days. And they can do so whether it's 90 degrees outside or 60 degrees. Although the sun may not be as strong in the winter as in the summer, it can still damage skin. That's why you should get into the habit of applying sunscreen year round if you're going to be outdoors.

It doesn't matter what type of sunscreen I use, as long as I use it.

While something is better than nothing at all, it's best to choose a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher (preferably SPF 30 or higher). Also check the label to make sure it offers broad spectrum protection, which means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. If you expect to sweat or be around water, use a water-resistant sunscreen. Although most sunscreens protect against sunburn, only broad-spectrum products with SPF 15 or above have been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging caused by the sun.

I just found some sunscreen in my car, but I'm sure it's still safe to use.

Sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time so it's best to use only non-expired sunscreen to better ensure maximum protection. Check the label, which should have an expiration date. If there is no expiration date, assume sunscreen expires three years after purchase.

I applied sunscreen this morning, so I'm good to go for the rest of the day.

While it's a good idea to apply sunscreen before you head outside, you should also plan to re-apply it every two hours. If you sweat a lot or have been in the pool or other water, you may need to apply more often.

I should not apply sunscreen to a baby under 6 months old.

Sunscreens are not recommended for children under 6 months of age. To protect baby's sensitive skin, dress them in protective clothing, including a wide brim hat, if outdoors. Also try to keep them out of direct sunlight, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest.

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Date Last Reviewed: May 18, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD
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