Protect Against Skin Cancer by Avoiding Common Sunscreen Mistakes

June 30, 2017

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, many people are planning to spend time outside under the sun. Sunscreen is necessary for this time of year to protect against the sun’s harmful rays; however, it is only effective if it is used properly.

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, many people are planning to spend time outside under the sun. Sunscreen is necessary for this time of year to protect against the sun’s harmful rays; however, it is only effective if it is used properly.

Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology explored the common mistakes made in sunscreen application that could increase the risk of skin cancer rather than protect against it. The research included observations of sunscreen utilization over a 93-hour period, from free sunscreen dispensers at the Minnesota State Fair.

Of the 2187 people observed, only 33% of people applied sunscreen to all of their exposed skin, while only 38% wore sun-protective clothing, hats, or sunglasses. The research also acknowledged a significant reduction in sunscreen utilization on cloudy days.

“These results highlight some of the ways people use sunscreen incorrectly,” board-certified dermatologist Ingrid Polcari, MD, FAAD, an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis and one of the study authors, said in a statement. “To get the best possible sun protection, it’s important to wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, and to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, not just your face and arms.”

The observations also discovered that more women used the sunscreen dispensers than men. While 51% of the fair attendees were women, they made up 57% of the sunscreen users.

“Men over 50 have a higher risk than the general population of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and UV exposure is the most preventable skin cancer risk factor, so it’s important for men of all ages to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen,” noted Darrell S. Rigel, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor at New York University

When picking a sunscreen, Rigel recommended selecting one that is SPF 30 or higher, “broad spectrum,” water resistance, and has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for sensitive skin.

“The best type of sunscreen is one you’ll use,” Rigel concluded. “So find one you like and apply it to all exposed skin before heading outside.”