When it comes to sun smarts, many of us aren’t as bright as we’d like to believe, according to a national survey shared by the American Academy of Dermatology in April. Of the 1,000 adults polled, about 62 percent gauged their sun protection efforts as good to excellent. Yet, 63 percent reported getting a tan, and about 33 percent admitted to having a sunburn at least once last year. The survey also found large gaps in respondents’ knowledge of sun safety, such as the benefits of shade. While soaking up rays provides plenty of shiny health benefits—including reduced blood pressure and better brain function—every person, despite their race, age or gender, should take steps to protect against the risks of sun exposure.
• Apply enough sunscreen. Most wearers use less than half the recommended amount of sunscreen. About one ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) is needed to protect any skin not covered by clothing.
• Wear broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours or more often if you’re swimming or sweating.
• Toss expired sunscreen. Sunscreen has a shelf life of about three years. When you buy a new bottle, check for an expiration date or write the date of purchase on the bottle with a permanent marker.
• Seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. If your shadow appears shorter than you, it’s time to find a shady respite.
• Dress to protect. Choose full-length clothing with a UPF rating, such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants, and sun-protective accessories, like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
• Perform a monthly skin check. Use a full-length mirror and hand mirror to check yourself from head to toe. If you notice any spots that are new, changing, itching, bleeding or otherwise suspicious, see a dermatologist.