5 Common Sunscreen Mistakes

Applying Sunscreen Correctly Maximizes Skin Cancer Prevention

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We all know that regularly using sunscreen is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer. Unfortunately, many people make mistakes when it comes to wearing sunscreen. Properly applying sunscreen and following manufacturer instructions are key to maximum protection.

Common Sunscreen Mistakes

  1. Applying sunscreen AFTER going outdoors.
    Sunscreen needs to be applied 15 to 30 minutes BEFORE going outside to give it time to be absorbed into the skin. Follow manufacturer's instructions for absorption time, which is typically up to 30 minutes before heading outside. Read: How to Properly Apply Sunscreen


  1. Not applying enough sunscreen.
    Experts recommend that an adult should use about 1 ounce of sunscreen for adequate coverage. Remember that all body parts that will be exposed to the sun need to be protected. Most people forget to apply sunscreen to their face, ears, neck and feet.


  2. Not reapplying after swimming or sweating.
    Sunscreen that is not labeled "waterproof" or "water resistant" does come off while you're in the water or sweating. Even waterproof and water-resistant sunscreen provide a limited window of protection. Check the product label to learn how often to reapply it. Most provide between 45 minutes to 2 hours of coverage. Read: Which is the Best Sunscreen For Your Skin Type?


  3. Not reapplying sunscreen at all.
    Many people have the misconception that one application of sunscreen will provide all-day protection. Not true. Sunscreen generally needs to be reapplied every two hours or after exercise or water activity. Check the label for specific instructions. Read: Should You Use Sunscreen On Your Lips?


  1. Using sunscreen only when it is sunny.
    Sunscreen needs to be used on both sunny and cloudy days. Harmful UV rays can still affect people when it's cloudy. It's important to keep in mind that all people are at risk of skin damage caused by the sun's harmful UV rays, so it is crucial to wear sunscreen regardless of your skin tone or ethnicity. Read: Who's Most At Risk for Skin Cancer?


    "Skin Cancer Prevention". What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer. National Cancer Institute. 01 Aug 2005. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin/page6

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