Top 10 Sun Protection Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

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Woman Surprised by Common Sun Protection Mistakes

Sun protection should be easy, but the prevalence of misconceptions can lead to painful mistakes. The good news, however, is that these sun safety mistakes are all easily avoidable. The first step to avoiding sun protection mistakes is to be aware of them. Continue below as we highlight ten of the most common sun protection mistakes, as well as how to avoid them.

Short on team and need to cut to the chase? Here’s our quick list of the most common sun protection mistakes, followed below with more details and tips for prevention:

  1. Trusting Regular Clothes for UV Protection 
  2. Not Using Enough Sunscreen
  3. Not Reapplying Sunscreen Frequently Enough
  4. Applying Sunscreen Too Late
  5. Mistaking Clouds for UV Protection
  6. Not Using Sun Protection Year-round
  7. Missing Hard-to-Reach Areas
  8. Ignoring Reflected UV Rays
  9. Thinking That No Sunburn Means No Damage
  10. Not Having a Yearly Skin Exam

Mistake #1: Trusting Regular Clothes for UV Protection 

It’s a common misconception that all fabrics protect your skin and block UV rays. In reality, however, only fabrics rated with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) are guaranteed to offer adequate UV blocking protection. Look for clothing and accessories featuring a UPF 50+ rating, the highest given, for the comfort of knowing your clothing is blocking over 98% of UV rays. The typical cotton t-shirt, for comparison, might only have a UPF 5 rating.

Mistake #2: Not Using Enough Sunscreen

Proper sunscreen application requires about one ounce of sunscreen for the average adult. To be more exact, the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. For something easier to visualize and remember, use roughly a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen lotion. Another tip is to avoid spending too much on sunscreen. If it’s more affordable, you’re more likely to use the proper amount and less likely to stress out about using too much. Even better, invest in UPF sun protection clothing which is likely to save you money in the long run.

Mistake #3: Not Reapplying Sunscreen Frequently Enough

Regardless of SPF, sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours. In cases where you’re in the water or sweating, you need to reapply sunscreen even more frequently. One easy way to avoid this sun protection mistake of not reapplying sunscreen often enough is to set a timer on your phone. Have it go off every 2 hours, and take that time to find some shade, hydrate and reapply sunscreen. Even better, wear UPF 50+ apparel and avoid this common sun protection mistake.

Using a timer for sunscreen applications

Mistake #4: Applying Sunscreen Too Late

You should apply most sunscreens at least 30 minutes prior to going out in the sun. How many times have you waited until laying out your blanket at the beach to put on your sunscreen? It’s important to allow the sunscreen to bind or absorb before depending on it for UV protection. The best way to avoid sun protection mistakes like this is with wearable sun protection clothing that doesn’t require advanced preparation. UPF-rated apparel is effective and protective the instant you put it on!

Mistake #5: Mistaking Clouds for UV Protection

Many people learn this one the hard way, but you must remember that clouds do not provide adequate UV protection. Even on an overcast day, most of the sun’s damaging UV rays penetrate through the clouds to reach your skin. This false sense of security is frequently the cause of sunburn for people who might otherwise have been more diligent with their sun protection. Avoid this sun protection mistake by using sunscreen regardless of weather, and by wearing UPF 50+ apparel rated for sun protection.

Mistake #6: Not Using Sun Protection Year-round

Sun protection is not a seasonal game. It’s important all year, including in the winter. While the sun is lower and daylight hours are shorter, the threat of both UVA and UVB damage exists regardless of season. Keep your skin protected with seasonally-appropriate apparel, such as UPF 50+ face masks, neck gaiters and hooded long sleeve shirts.

Walking in the snow with sun protection

Mistake #7: Missing Hard-to-Reach Areas

Let’s face it—it can be hard to reach every part of your body, and nearly impossible to properly apply sunscreen everywhere it’s needed. The unfortunate result of this is missed coverage with sunscreen, which leads to avoidable skin damage and sunburn. You could resort to spray sunscreens (not preferred by dermatologists) or ask for help applying sunscreen (sometimes help isn’t there), but there is an easier solution! Avoid this sun protection mistake by wearing UPF apparel that protects everywhere it covers. Rather than twisting and stretching to get every inch of your back, throw on a lightweight UPF 50+ sun shirt!

Mistake #8: Ignoring Reflected UV Rays

The sun’s UV rays cause most of their damage directly, but this threat isn’t only from above. In fact, many surfaces reflect UV rays with enough intensity for the reflected rays to still cause skin damage. Be mindful of surfaces and surroundings that reflect UV rays, such as water, ice and snow. While those are common culprits, even sand, grass, cement and asphalt reflect enough UV light to cause skin damage. Avoid sun protection mistakes like this by protecting your skin from all angles with UPF 50+ sun protection clothing and accessories.

Water reflecting the sun's UV rays

Mistake #9: Thinking That No Sunburn Means No Damage

Another common sun protection mistake is the misconception that not getting sunburn means not getting sun damage. The truth is that skin damage occurs before any visible signs of sunburn, and sunburn is but one symptom of skin damage. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until your skin turns red to take action. Likewise, don’t become complacent thinking you’re immune to skin damage because your skin color or complexion don’t burn as easily. All skin types and colors are prone to UV damage, and everyone needs sun protection. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear UPF 50+ apparel before any signs of sun damage.

Mistake #10: Not Having a Yearly Skin Exam

While many people prefer to avoid doctors, it’s important to have your skin checked for signs of skin cancer. Early detection is critical in the fight against skin cancer—just ask our founder, Devin Regan—and can mean a world of difference in treatment, recovery and outcome. We encourage everyone to get a baseline medical examination of their skin, learn about the risks of melanoma, and to consult a doctor with any concerns.

Rayward Apparel understands that it takes all of us working together to defeat cancer. With that in mind, we pledge 5% of all profits to organizations dedicated to researching and treating skin cancer. Therefore, by purchasing UPF 50+ clothing and accessories from Rayward Apparel, you’re not only protecting your own skin, but also helping support the fight against skin cancer. 

Shop UPF 50+ sun protection apparel today!

Source: Skin Cancer Foundation

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