Sunscreen: You’re Doing It Wrong

April 19, 2017
Sunscreen- you're doing it wrong

True or False – sunscreen should be rubbed in thoroughly to protect skin from dangerous sun rays.

False. Sunscreen should not be rubbed in vigorously upon application. Simply, if you rub it in too much, you’re essentially wiping it off and losing your barrier to the sun. And it’s a safe bet you don’t apply enough of the stuff – most people don’t.

After slathering on some sunscreen and applying it according to label instructions, your or your kids’ sunscreen might leave a white layer on top of your skin (yes, think the lifeguard look). That’s OK.

Proper sun protection is a necessity for heading outdoors. This is especially true for sensitive skin most frequently exposed to the sun.

“Use sunscreen to protect exposed skin, giving special attention to your face, ears, nose, and neck,” the Boy Scouts of America’s Fieldbook explains.

Always follow the application instructions on your sunscreen bottle (or can if you’re using a spray applicator).

Also, be aware of the elements. If you’re using a spray sunscreen and applying it in windy conditions, take extra care to make sure you’re in the path of the sunscreen stream. If you or your kids go for a swim or get wet, apply sunscreen more frequently (even if your brand is water resistant).

Keep in mind, more is definitely better in this case. That’s not necessarily true for your SPF value, however. Read on to see what we mean.

Making Sense of SPF

SPF stands for “sun protection factor.” And the numbers included after “SPF” on your sunscreen indicate what level of protection is offered.

The Fieldbook states, “An SPF of 25 shields skin from about 94 percent of damaging rays and provides 15 times the protection of no sunscreen at all, provided that the the sunscreen has been applied according to label instructions.”

And yes, going up to SPF 30 offers higher protection from the sun – 30 times the protection of no sunscreen to be exact. That means it’s filtering out 97 percent of harmful rays.

But here’s where it gets tricky.

“SPF numbers above 30, however, add only marginally more protection,” the Fieldbook says.

So grab a bottle or spray can of SPF 25 or 30 if you want effective protection. Then, apply it correctly and liberally.

Remember: use a lot, create an even layer/barrier, and don’t rub it in too much. A (possibly visible) layer of sunscreen will keep you and your kids safe in the fun of the sun.

Share this post with a parent, Scouter, or Scout who plans to spend time outside this season.