Evading a sunburn during the sweltering summer months can sometimes feel hopeless. Sweat, heat and humidity can quickly weaken any protection provided by carefully applied sunscreen.
However, since skin cancer remains the most common cancer in the U.S. and rates of deadly melanoma continue to rise, experts say preventing sunburns and sun damage is important for future health.
To prevent sun damage there are a few basic steps everyone can take. The FDA recommends using broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher, and staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Also when out at the beach or pool, it's important to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after a swim. Learn 15 Facts About Sunscreen
In June the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposed new regulations on sunscreen labels to help consumers decipher which sunscreen is best for them. Under the new regulations, sunscreen manufacturers can no longer claim their product is "water-proof." Instead they can only claim sunscreen is "water-resistant" up to a certain time limit. Additionally sunscreens that claim to be broad-spectrum must block both dangerous UVA and UVB rays.
In addition to FDA recommendations, we have heard plenty of "advice" on the best way to avoid sun damage during the summer, from getting a "base" tan to trying a sunscreen pill. To help you figure out fact from fiction we've taken a look at five of these recommendations and asked the experts.
|You can Take a Pill Instead of Slathering on Sunscreen|
Fiction, for now. Taking a single pill to protect yourself from the sun's glare may seem like a work of science fiction, but Dr. Jennifer Stein, a dermatologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center, says the option is closer to reality than one might think.
A number of pills on the market claim to help protect users from sun damage, although their claims are not verified by the FDA. One of the most popular is Heliocare, which is made from extracts from a fern called polypodium leucotomos. The company claims the pill's abundant anti-oxidants help to minimize your skin's sensitivity to the sun.
Stein says that studies have shown people who take the pills are less sensitive to UV rays. However, she stresses that the pills were not a replacement for sunscreen.
"I think the pill can't be your only form of sun protection," said Stein. "But if you're very [sensitive] to the sun, this can be one piece of the sun protection plan."
So for now you'll still need a bottle of sunscreen when hitting the beach.
|You're More Sensitive to the Sun After a Long Dark Winter|
Fact. Finally enjoying a sunny summer day after a long and dark winter can feel almost miraculous. But be careful during those first few days in the sun and don't forget your sunscreen. Stein says people who have been without sunlight during winter months are at a higher risk for suffering a bad sunburn when the sun finally does comes out.
In addition, if you're on certain medications or even over-the-counter pain relievers you might be more sensitive to the sun and should stay extra covered up. Stein says you should check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you're not at any extra risk.
|Treating a Sunburn Helps Reduce Skin Damage|
Fiction. If you get a sunburn, there are many things you can do to help alleviate the discomfort, including slathering on aloe vera and popping an ibuprofen to diminish inflammation. However Stein says no matter how much aloe vera you use on sunburn, the damage to the skin is already done on a cellular level.
Stein says the best choice is to prevent the burn in the first place.
|Just Throw on a T-Shirt if You're Out of Sunscreen|
Depends on the T-shirt. Experts stress that covering up when you're in the sun is key, but certain fabrics are safer than others when it comes to sun protection. The amount of sun protection in clothing is measured in UPFs, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor, rather than SPF. A thin white cotton T-shirt has a UPF of approximately 5, which goes down to a 3 when it's wet.
Dr. James Spencer, a dermatologist in St. Petersburg, Fla., and a board member for the American Academy of Dermatology, says that for those who are very sun sensitive, a white cotton T-shirt will likely not provide enough protection. Instead, Spencer recommends finding a shirt in a tighter weave or washing clothes with a sun protection rinse such as SunGuard wash, which claims to make clothes have a UPF of 30.
In addition, some sportswear for outdoor activities like running or tennis have their UPF listed on the tag. "If you're a tennis player, by all means you should keep playing tennis," said Spencer. "There are really simple things people [can do.]"
|Throw Out Any Sunscreen From Last Year|
Fiction. Most sunscreens have an expiration date of three years, so you don't need to immediately throw out the sunscreen buried at the bottom of your beach bag. However, Stein warns that if your sunscreen lasts through the whole summer, you're not applying enough.
To cover your whole body during a trip to the beach or the pool, you should use 1oz, or about a shot glass' worth of sunscreen, and reapply every two hours or after taking a swim.
"You should be going through that sunscreen like crazy," says Stein.