mother put sunblock cream on little daughter face at beach

Skincare Protection 101  

As we spend more time outside, it’s important to protect our skin and eyes from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the leading cause of skin cancer. Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation.  

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the United States, and the number of cases continues to rise. Though skin cancer is more common among people with light skin, the National Institutes of Health recommends people of all ages and skin tones should limit the amount of time they spend in the sun, especially between mid-morning and late afternoon.  

There are two types of UV radiation:  

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA): UVA may cause premature aging of the skin and play a role in causing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. 
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB): UVB radiation causes sunburn and is closely linked with the development of skin cancer and melanoma.

Daily sun protection

 The first line of defense is wearing sunscreen daily. When looking for sunscreen, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends looking for one that is:  

  • A broad spectrum: protects against UVA and UVB rays. 
  • SPF 30 or higher. 
  • Water resistant: Sunscreen is not waterproof and must be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

There are two types of sunscreen, physical and chemical sunscreens. They work differently. Determining the best one for you depends on your type of skin and other factors, according to the Mayo Clinic.  

Physical Sunscreen  

  • Works like a shield by sitting on the surface of your skin, deflecting the rays of the sun. 
  • Look for the active ingredient zinc dioxide. Look for 20% to 25% for the best protection. 
  • This sunscreen is best for sensitive skin. 

Chemical Sunscreen  

  • Works like a sponge by absorbing the sun’s rays. 
  • Look for one or more of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.  
  • This sunscreen is easier to rub into the skin and doesn’t leave a white residue. 

Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. One ounce of sunscreen is the average amount needed to cover exposed skin.  

Tips for protecting your skin

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following ways to protect your skin:  

  • Stay in the shade during the peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection. 
  • Wear a hat that covers your scalp, ears and neck.  
  • Wear sun clothing and shoes. 
  • Use SPF lip balm. 
  • Use caution near water, sand and snow. The reflection from these increases the likelihood of sunburn.  

By taking a few extra preventative steps, you can protect your skins from the sun’s harmful rays.  

Learn more sun protection tips in this Blue Cross® Virtual Well-Being webinar. You can also sign up for future employer-focused and general interest webinars here, where you’ll find past sessions and resources.   

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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