5 Must-Know Sunscreen Tips for Skin Cancer Awareness Month

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month, and also the time of year when Pittsburghers can finally start to get out and enjoy some sunshine. But before you head out to do yard work or open up your pool for Memorial Day, read up on these very important sunscreen facts to help keep your skin protected all summer long.

1. Not All Sunscreens Are Created Equal

Many people may not realize that there are two different types of sunscreens: physical blockers and chemical screens. Physical sunscreens contain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These tiny mineral particles reflect the sun’s UV rays away from your skin so you don’t get burnt.

Chemical sunscreens work a little differently. They contain ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone, which absorb UV rays into themselves so they can’t get to your skin.

If you’ve seen news articles about the potential health risks of sunscreen, it’s the ingredients in some chemical sunscreens that are under scrutiny. So if you’re concerned about this, you can stick to physical sunscreens instead, rather than foregoing sunscreen altogether and putting yourself at risk for melanoma, a deadly but highly preventable form of skin cancer.

2. Your Lips Need Sunscreen, Too

When we apply sunscreen, most of us probably don’t think to rub it into our lips. However, the skin on our lips is even more susceptible to sunburns and sun damage than the skin on other areas of our bodies. That’s because our lips do not naturally produce oil, which contains vitamin E, while other areas of our bodies do. Vitamin E is a type of antioxidant that offers some level of natural protection against UV light.

Additionally, the skin on our lips is significantly thinner than on other body parts, so it takes less sun exposure to cause damage.

Look for a lip balm that contains SPF to keep your lips protected from the sun this spring and summer.

3. UV Light Can Penetrate Clouds and Windows

Contrary to popular belief, it is very possible to get a sunburn while outside on a cloudy day or even while driving in your car with the windows up, or sitting next to a window while indoors all day. This is because UV rays are able to penetrate through both clouds and glass.

So even if you’re not planning on going outside for very long, wearing sunscreen can help to keep your skin protected during your drive to work and while sitting in a bright, sunny office. On these types of days, however, you can get away with wearing a lower SPF sunscreen. Then, on beach or pool days, switch to a higher SPF for added protection.

4. Remember to Reapply Your Sunscreen

Don’t forget that you need to reapply your sunscreen every 1 to 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating a lot. Even if it says “water-resistant” on the bottle, you still need to reapply your sunscreen, as no product is completely waterproof. Plus, if you dry yourself off with a towel after swimming, it’s likely that you’ve just wiped off any sunscreen that may have been left on your skin.

5. Make Sure You’re Using Enough Sunscreen

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most people only apply about 25% to 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. If you’re not applying enough, you won’t get the number of SPF that’s listed on the bottle. The AAD recommends that you apply one ounce of sunscreen to the exposed areas of your body, and a nickel-sized dollop for your face.