A study that examined how effective various techniques were at preventing sunburn had results that may surprise you. It found that those who say they regularly apply sunscreen are more likely to experience damaging sunburns.
Study researcher Dr. Eleni Linos, a dermatologist at Stanford University, stresses that her results don’t mean that sunscreen doesn’t work or shouldn’t be used, as the study was designed to look at patterns, not to prove cause and effect.
Rather, it more likely shows that many people only use sunscreen for protection from the sun, when it should be used in combination with other preventative techniques to avoid sunburn.
Tips for Preventing Sunburn
Here are five things you can do to help prevent sunburn and used together they become even more effective.
- Apply Sunscreen. Despite the results, sunscreen is effective. Linos believes that the most likely explanation for the study results is user error and people aren’t applying as much sunscreen as they should. Aim for a golf ball-sized amount for every exposed body part.
- Reapply Sunscreen. When you’re outside for longer periods of time, be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours (or every 60 to 90 minutes if swimming or sweating).
- Stay in the shade. Myself, personally, I’m a dermatologist, and I don’t even wear sunscreen all that much. I stay in the shade,” says Dr. Ronald P. Rapini, a professor of dermatology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
- Wear a hat. Protective clothing should also be part of your multi-pronged approach to avoiding sunburns.
- Wear long sleeves. The study showed that those who frequently sought shade and wore long sleeves had about a 30% lower sunburn risk compared to those who rarely used those measures.
The best data that’s out there shows the combination of seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and wearing sunscreen, those three things together clearly lower your risk, says Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University.
In addition, the FDA’s new regulations for sunscreens, which will be implemented in 2012, will make it easier to choose a good sunscreen.
Dr. Jonov is a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in plastic surgeries of the face, breast, and body at Seattle Plastic Surgery.