7 Ways You're Applying Sunscreen Wrong

by Kat George
sarra22/E+/Getty Images

Stop what you're doing, because you're probably doing it wrong, especially since today we've learned that we're all applying sunscreen wrong. "What?" I can hear you shouting incredulously, "How can you apply sunscreen wrong? You just smear it all over your body and that's it... Right?" Apparently, no, not right. And actually: very, very wrong. It's probably not so much of a big deal now, considering you're probably not out in the sun a lot, it being winter and all snowy and cold and whatnot, but you might want to take heed as the weather warms up. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has released their findings on the sun and what we gain and lose by exposure to it.

Basically, the sun is essential for Vitamin D, but overexposure to sun can cause skin cancer, so tanning is completely unsafe. Considering an estimated 10,130 people will die of melanoma in the US in 2016, applying sunscreen is something you should take very seriously. As someone who's had a mole removed, I can tell you the process is pretty upsetting, and that you should slather up diligently and consistently to avoid skin cancer even thinking it has a chance of setting up shop in your body. So start taking notes, or bookmarking this now. Your health and skin depend on it! With spring fast approaching and summer hot on its heels, you probably want to start applying your sunscreen correctly. Here's what you've been doing wrong:

1. You're Not Re-Applying

I'm from Australia, so I was brought up under the religion of "reapply every half an hour, and after swimming". It turns out, this is CORRECT! Yes! I've been living correctly. The NICE says your sunscreen should be “reapplied liberally, frequently and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.” Your sunscreen gets rubbed off by toweling, sweating, the exfoliating sand and, of course, swimming, so making sure you reapply will ensure you're maintaining protection throughout your time in the sun.

2. You're Not Using Enough

However much sunscreen you're using, use more. More is more. The NICE says you need around "35 ml or 6 to 8 teaspoons of lotion" to cover a full grown human with the full SPF value of what's written on the bottle.

3. You're Not Prepared

Be a boy scout for sunscreen. NICE says you should apply half an hour before you even step into the sun, and then again half an hour after being in the sun.

4. You're Not Wearing Sunscreen When It's Cloudy

Even if it doesn't feel hot out, or it seems cloudy, you can still burn in the summer (or any time for that matter). The NICE says to be sure to ALWAYS wear sunscreen when you're planning on exposing your skin to sunlight for extended periods of time.

5. You Believe Your Tan Will Protect You

If you're reading the NICE guidelines, you'll see pretty quick that a "base tan" is bullsh*t. A tan is just sun damage to begin with, and won't protect you from burning and further damage.

6. You're Not Wearing Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

The sun has both UVA and UVB rays. The former can lead to melanoma, while the latter is what gives you the physical burn. Some sunscreens only cater to one or the other, so be sure to check the label and buy a "broad spectrum" sunscreen that covers both.

7. You're Not Doing "SLIP, SLOP, SLAP!"

In Australia, we had an iconic campaign in the '80s to get people to "Slip, Slop, Slap!" It's still the official motto of sun safety. It means you should slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat before going out into the sun. Sunscreen is essential for sun protection, but even better with shade, a shirt and a hat when you're not frolicking in the waves.

Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.

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