10 Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes Before Spending Time in the Sun

The right preparation is key before you head out into the sunshine. Just rubbing in some sunscreen isn’t enough to protect you from ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) rays that can cause irreversible damage, skin cancer, and premature aging. Don't make these mistakes before stepping out the door!

  1. Using Your Favorite Products

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    Skincare products sun protection

    Certain active ingredients in skincare products can increase sensitivity to sunlight. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, be especially careful when using anti-agers like retinol, exfoliants like AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), and lighteners like hydroquinone.

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  2. Skipping a Hat

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    Wear a hat sun protection

    Take it from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency: A broad-brimmed hat is a highly effective way to protect your face from the sun’s damaging radiation. Make sure your hat has a full, circular brim and is lined with an opaque fabric.

    Related: Beat the Heat: 16 DIY Outdoor Showers to Cool You Down

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  3. Eating Certain Foods

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    Food and sun sensitivity

    When it comes to sun protection, what you put in your body matters. Certain foods have been shown to increase sun sensitivity and burning, including “celery, dill, fennel, figs, lime, parsley, and wild carrots,” according to U.S. News & World Report.

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  4. Popping a Pill

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    Prescription medicine sun sensitivity

    In addition to avoiding certain foods, be careful of using particular medications when venturing out in the sun. These include a range of antifungals, antihistamines, oral contraceptives, antidepressants (even herbs like St. John’s wort), and antibiotics.

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  5. Relying on Chemicals

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    Chemical sunscreen

    There are two types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens, which contain ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, and octocrylene, have recently come under scrutiny by scientists for entering the bloodstream in high levels. If you have concerns, stick with physical sun blockers, which use titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

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  6. Driving Without Protection

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    Sunscreen protection in the car

    You need more than just seat belts to stay safe in your car. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, nearly 53 percent of skin cancers appear on the left/driver’s side of the body. Don’t wait until you reach your destination to slather on sunscreen.

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  7. Missing a Spot

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    Thoroughly apply sunscreen

    We have a million things to do each day, so sometimes our sunscreen habits can be sloppy—and splotchy. Scientists have found that eyelids, ear tips, the bottom lip, and the sides of the neck are especially neglected spots that are vulnerable to skin cancer.

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  8. Ignoring the Two-Hour Rule

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    Reapply sunscreen

    Yes, sunscreen technology has improved, but you still need to reapply every two hours. Why? Because you probably didn’t apply enough to begin with, so additional applications increase protection and decrease skin damage.

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  9. Not Buying a New Bottle

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    Sunscreen expiration dates

    If you use enough sunscreen, one bottle shouldn’t last an entire summer—much less two or three years. While FDA-approved sunscreens typically have a three-year shelf life, keep your supply fresh and use generously.

    Related: 20 Summer Life Hacks Everyone Needs

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  10. Forgetting Clothes

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    Sun protection clothes

    The right clothes matter for sun protection. Different fabrics have different levels of “UPF” (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Darker colors and tighter weaves as well as high-tech materials treated with chemical sunblock offer the best protection from ultraviolet rays.

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  11. Sun Safety

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    sun safety tips

    A sunburn is no laughing matter. Follow these tips so you can have a fun and safe day outside.

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