This ‘common’ mistake with sunscreen gets people burned, DC-area dermatologist says

If enjoying the sun is on your to-do list this summer, protecting your skin should be as well. Here are some basic but important tips from a D.C.-area dermatologist.

Most people know it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen if you’re going to be out under the sun for more than a couple of minutes. But where many people get confused is, what kind?

Dr. Adam Friedman, professor and chair of dermatology at GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said that if you are venturing out, a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher with a broad spectrum of protection is ideal. If you’re going to be in or near the water, then make sure it’s water resistant.

Whether you go into the water or not, it’s best to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. If you’re not actively trying to get some color, he said it’s a good idea to get some extra protection like a hat, sunglasses or a light long sleeve shirt.

There are times of day when you should be extra careful, Friedman said.

“If you can seek shade during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., that would be ideal,” he said. “But certainly, you can have your fun and be protected by using sunscreen [on] those exposed areas and using protective clothing.”

As tedious as it may seem, he said, it’s important to be thorough when you apply sunscreen.

“Don’t forget some of the more sensitive areas like the skin around the eyes, the lips, the ears and even the back of the hands,” Friedman told WTOP. “These areas are exposed and the skin is a little bit thinner and more susceptible to the harmful effects of UV radiation.”

Also, different types of sunscreen need to be applied … differently.

“The most common mistake I’ve seen using spray sunscreens is you have to treat the spray as if it were a lotion or cream,” he said. “I typically will spray that liquid into my palm to get a nice little puddle to then rub it on my skin … spraying it like a thermal spring water — that’s not going to cut it. You’re gonna get it on everyone else around you, not yourself.”

And if you’ve chosen to ignore all these tips and find yourself burnt? What then?

“First and foremost, use a moisturizer to damp skin because when skin is sunburned, its ability to hold on to water is diminished,” Friedman said. “Stay out of the sun when your skin is sunburn, its ability to resist ultraviolet radiation is also lowered.”

“Taking ibuprofen or Tylenol can help with some of the swelling and pain,” he added.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this story.

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Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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