Summer 2022 is here, baby! Hot summer days! Warm summer nights! Mosquito bites! Outdoor concerts! Weekends spent by the pool! Sweating every time you step outside! Summer in Indiana is a wonderful time to get outdoors, soak up the sun, and have some fun. Whether you’re spending time outside or indoors behind your work desk, wearing sunscreen is a must every day this summer.

Most types of skin cancer are caused by ultraviolet, or UV, rays. These rays come from the sun and tanning beds. Direct sun exposure obviously exposes your skin to UV rays, but UV rays are getting to your skin even on a cloudy day. UV rays can also affect the skin through windows, reflect off water, and shine through your windshield while you’re driving. Because of this, experts recommend wearing an SPF 15 sunscreen every day, no matter the time of year or if you’re spending time outside. 

What does SPF mean in sunscreen?

Sun protective factor, or SPF, helps shield your skin from UV rays by either blocking and scattering the rays before they are absorbed into your skin, or by absorbing the rays before they can damage your skin. The number associated with the SPF (15, 30, 45, etc.) indicates how long it would take the skin to become irritated from the sun without the SPF. For example, SPF 15 means that with this protection, it takes 15 times longer for the sun’s rays to damage your skin. Score!

How often should I reapply?

Everyone regardless of skin type or color should wear sunscreen, except babies under six months. One ounce of sunscreen should be used to cover your whole body and should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, with reapplication of that same amount roughly every two hours. Your amount of sun exposure, the intensity of the sun where you live, and even your skin type can help determine what level of SPF is good for you.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

I have extremely fair, sensitive skin. Even in Indiana, SPF 30 isn’t strong enough for little ole me. I need SPF 45 or higher, and if I’m in direct sun, I need to reapply more like every hour. Experts recommend SPF 30 or higher if you’re in direct sunlight, and they recommend reapplying immediately after sweating or being in the water. 

Ideally, use a sunscreen that is “broad-spectrum,” or protects against UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn, while UVA rays cause tanning and premature aging to the skin (like wrinkling) as a result of sun exposure. 

How else can I get sun protection?

Wearing sunscreen sometimes isn’t enough if you are exposed to the sun for long periods of time, or somewhere where the sun is incredibly strong. You can wear hats to protect your scalp from the sun, as it is a little tricky to rub sunscreen into your hair and scalp. Sunglasses help protect your eyes and a portion of your face from the sun’s rays, while wearing layers of clothing to cover the skin can also help. When in doubt, seek shade. If the skin is red and irritated despite diligent sunscreen use, find a nice shady spot and let your skin rest for a bit. 

There are even sunscreens for different activities and parts of your body. There are sunscreens specifically for your face that are less oily and can be worn under makeup, and there are also sweatproof sunscreens that are great for being active.

Even if you’re staying indoors this summer, be sure to load up on the sunscreen to keep your skin protected and feeling good.