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Recently I wrote about the dangers of indoor tanning, which puts you at greater risk of developing skin cancer because of the convenience—you can do it during any time of the year, and at any time of the day. However, this isn’t to say that it’s not still dangerous to tan outdoors during the summer season without the use of sunscreen. In fact, it is extremely important to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays that can cause premature aging as well as skin cancer. Nevertheless, many people who do heed doctors’ warnings make some very common mistakes when applying sunscreen. Read ahead to learn the top 9 and how to avoid these pitfalls:

  1. You’re skimping on the stuff: this is a very common mistake but if you don’t apply the right amount of sunscreen, you’re not getting the protection that you need. Doctors recommend using a nickel-size amount for your face and two shot glasses-worth for the rest of your body. Do this no matter if you plan on wearing a bathing suit or clothing to the beach and make sure to apply it at least 20 minutes before you go since it takes some time for it to absorb into your skin.
  2. You skip sunscreen on a cloudy day: you need protection whether or not you can see the sun. Actually, on a cloudy day in winter, you are getting as much exposure to UVA rays as you would on the hottest, sunniest day of the summer. Always start your morning by applying sunscreen to every inch of exposed skin.
  3. You think a high SPF sunscreen will protect you all day: no matter the SPF level of your sunscreen, it is necessary to reapply every 90 minutes.
  4. You’re not choosing the right formula: look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Look for products with Mexoryl, Helioplex, or zinc oxide.
  5. You missed a spot: even if you have a thick head of hair, your scalp can get burnt. The same goes for the tops of your feet and your ears. Make sure to apply sunscreen to these areas, too.
  6. You’re doing faulty SPF math: layering an SPF 15 over a SPF 30 does not equal an SPF 45. Stick with one sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every 90 minutes.
  7. You’re letting your makeup do the work for you: just because your makeup says it contains an SPF doesn’t mean that it’s enough to fully keep you protected. In fact, experts say that you would have to wear seven times the amount of foundation you wear now to get the full SPF value of the product.
  8. You’re supersensitive to sunlight and you don’t know it: most people don’t realize that certain medications can increase the sensitivity to light. For example, prescriptions pills for high blood pressure or birth control can make you sensitive to the sun. Similarly, some foods like lime, celery, or citrus fruits can make you sensitive to the sun because of a special chemical called furocoumarin. This chemical reacts to the sun and causes blotchy dark spots that can take months to fade.
  9. You forget about your lips: the lips get more sun exposure than any other area of the body, but many people will apply lip gloss before hitting the beach. This is akin to applying baby oil to your body and lying out: if you plan on being outside, make sure you cover your lips with a lip protector with an SPF of 20 or above.

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