What You Need to Know About Sunscreen

by Angela Bilbrey, MHT Registered Dietitian 
While it is important to protect our skin from the damaging rays of the sun year-round, sunscreen is especially important in the summer when we spend more time outdoors.  According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is by far the most common form of all cancers, with melanoma causing the majority of skin cancer deaths.  The rates of melanoma have been rising for the past 30 years, and approximately 87,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2017, and about 9,700 people are expected to die of melanoma in 2017.  The most important way to protect yourself from melanoma is to practice sun safety when you are outdoors, which includes using sunscreen.
But how do you choose a sunscreen?  There are two major types of sunscreens on the market, mineral based and chemical based.  Which one you choose is a matter of preference, but it's important to note that not all sunscreens provide the amount of protection stated on their label.  Consumer Reports performs an annual review of sunscreens using scientific lab based testing, and they found that approximately 20% of the sunscreens they tested didn't provide the protection they advertised.  You can read about their testing protocol and which sunscreens they recommend here:
Here are a few sunscreen rules that apply to every sunscreen on the market:
  • Shake your sunscreen before each use
  • Apply 15-20 minutes prior to going out in the sun
  • Apply at least a teaspoon to each body part
  • Reapply every 2 hours - more frequently if you are sweating profusely or in water and toweling off
  • Don't rely on the sunscreen to be water resistant - reapplying is the best way to make sure you are protected
Enjoy the sun safely while it lasts!