You may have heard it before but you’re about to hear it again: the #1 most powerful thing you can do for your skin is to protect it from sun damage. Sun protection can dramatically slow your skin’s aging in addition to lowering your risk for skin cancer, skin irritation, and other issues. If you want to be one of those people who hears “oh you look so much younger!” when you tell people your age, it all comes down to sun care.
The world of sun protection is full of acronyms, confusing terms, and misconceptions, though. To help you keep your skin young, I’m breaking it all down for you in this ultimate sun care guide.
A Glossary: Terms for Sun Care Defined
To get the right products for your skin’s sun protection, you need to know the lingo…and there’s plenty of lingo. Here are the top terms you need to know:
UVA – A type of sun radiation that penetrates deep into your skin. UVA is largely responsible for premature aging and some skin cancer development.
UVB – A type of sun radiation that is particularly damaging in causing sunburns and skin cancer
Broad-Spectrum – Sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB sun radiation
SPF – Acronym for “sun protection factor.” SPF works as a fraction. If you use SPF 30 sunscreen, you’ll be exposed to 1/30 of the radiation you would be exposed to without it. Technically, the higher the number, the better, although the rule of thumb is to use anything with SPF 30 or above.
UPF – Acronym for “ultraviolet protection factor.” UPF works the same way as SPF, but UPF is used for clothing while SPF is used for sunscreen and other skin care products.
How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun
You might have heard a ton of advice about sun protection in the past, and it’s tough to tell what’s genuinely helpful and what’s just a myth. Sun care can be easier than you think. Just follow these habits.
Wear Sunscreen Daily
Sunscreen should be a part of your skin care routine every morning and you should reapply it a few times throughout the day. Yes, you even need to reapply if you’re only getting minimal sun exposure. Try picking up a tinted sunscreen that can give you some mild foundation-like coverage too. This way, it shields your skin while also giving you a more even complexion rather than that white caste of reside that no one loves.
Cover It Up
Sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect your skin from the sun. In fact, it’s best to leave as little skin exposed to the sun as possible. Of course, what is “possible” will depend on the season…don’t give yourself sunstroke trying to avoid skin cancer by wearing a wool coat when it’s 90 degrees.
Within reason, try to keep skin covered with clothes that have a tight weave to the fabric. Some clothing comes with a UPF rating so you know how much sun protection you’re getting, but most clothes don’t measure or mark this. Even without a UPF, you can use some guidelines to determine which items will shield your skin the best, such as:
- Dark or bright colors as opposed to light colors
- Dense fabrics like denim, wool, canvas, or synthetic fibers
- Items that fit you without stretching the fabric
Time Your Sunscreen Correctly
This is one of those things that should be talked about a lot more than it is: you shouldn’t wait until you’re ready to leave (or are already outside) to apply sunscreen. It takes some time for sunscreen to sink into your skin and start functioning fully. Make sure you apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before you head out into the sun.
Rock a Sun Hat and Sunglasses
Yes, you can accessorize your way to better skin! If you’re spending time in the sun, there are two things you can wear to reduce the sun exposure on your face: a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with large frames. The next time you head out for a stroll or a picnic in the park, you can look glam while you keep your skin young.
Making a Difference with Little Habits
For most people, none of the sun protection habits above will be major changes to make in our routines. By just adding or tweaking your daily habits in these ways, though, you could save yourself from skin cancer while also keeping your skin looking smooth and youthful. Start with one or two habits at a time and work your way up, and before you know it, you’ll be a sun protection pro.