If you love being outdoors, then you’ve likely experienced the sharp pain of a sunburn. It almost seems like a rite of passage at the beginning of summer, getting your “base burn,” so you can spend the rest of your time in the sun beautiful and bronzed. Unfortunately, three months of tanned skin now can spell serious trouble later. In fact, you don’t even have to burn for your skin to take a serious beating from UV rays. As we age, sun damage compounds, contributing to premature aging, wrinkles, and very serious cancers like carcinoma and melanoma.

Now, before you stow away your sundresses and shove your beach towels to the back of your linen closet, there’s an easy way to soak up some sun without risking your health– Proper and timely application of SPF.

From the time that we are 6 months old, our skin should have a healthy layer of sunscreen on to prevent undue exposure and future cosmetic and health concerns. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests broad spectrum products, which filter out UVA and UVB radiation, with at least 30 SPF. That gives a lot of wiggle room for you to choose your favorite products that fit into your skincare routine, from products made for sensitive skin to SPF built right into your cosmetics.

To help you take care of your skin this summer, let’s address some of the most common questions we get about sunscreen application:

When Do I Need to Wear Sunscreen

A common misconception is that it needs to be warm and sunny for sunscreen to be necessary. This is absolutely not true! Even in the dead of winter or on the cloudiest, rainiest days, you should apply SPF. In fact, on overcast days, up to 80% of UV rays can still reach the earth!

What SPF Do I Need?

The answer to this varies based on what activity you’re doing. If you’re spending only a bit of time outdoors, like a walk around your neighborhood, or even walking from your car to a store, SPF 15 should be sufficient to protect yourself. On the other hand, if you’re planning on being outdoors for an extended period of time for hiking, gardening, or swimming, SPF 30 is necessary.

How Often Should I Reapply?

A good rule of thumb is that you should reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours if you are outdoors, even on overcast days. This is especially important if you are swimming or sweating, as even water-resistant sunscreens will dissipate over the course of your day.

What Options Do I Have for SPF Ingredients?

In general, there are two types of sunscreen that provide SPF protection: chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens use ingredients like octisalate and avobenzone to absorb UV radiation before it’s able to reach your skin. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are considered physical blockers, are able to form a physical barrier that scatters the rays away from you.

Do you have good SPF habits? If you don’t already, now is the perfect time to start! Save your skin with diligent sunscreen application, the right SPF, and a little help from your providers at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Institute.