Your Complete Guide To Preventing Sun Damage

kids in the sun

Just when you think you have that whole sun protection thing down, the inevitable happens and some random body part is accidentally neglected, resulting in an unfortunate sunburn. Or, even worse, you thought things were all good until you realize a little too late that you should have reapplied...two hours ago. Ouch!

Don't feel too bad about these missteps -- they happen to the best of us, even when we think we're being super diligent. Still, we want to protect our skin (our body's largest organ) as best we can, so even if you have a routine, there are ways to make it even better.

Options Are Everything

family in sun
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It's 2018 and we're lucky enough to have a wide array of options in terms of sun protection. For starters, the category breaks down into two kinds: Chemical and physical. According to Dr. Llana Pootrakul, a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, varieties that contain chemical blockers wear off quicker than physical blockers, plus people are more likely to be allergic to chemical blockers. Her personal preference? Physical blockers (which she says are often cheaper than their chemical counterparts). Looking for options that are chemical-free? Try Bare Republic Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Mousse ($16.99, gobareoutside.com) or Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion ($10.99, target.com).

Go Big or Go Home

family in sun
Credit: iStock / SerrNovik

Maybe you think of yourself as someone who doesn't burn easily, or who doesn't need a super strong lotion. If you pride yourself on being cool with a simple SPF 30 we hate to burst your bubble, so we're going to let Dr. Pootrakul do that for us. She recommends buying higher SPF 50 sunscreen because of the way SPF ratings are assigned. When SPF ratings are determined in a laboratory environment, subjects are covered in sunscreen. In real life, we civilians just don't apply as much. Basically, after you've done your application, an SPF 50 may only be as strong as an SPF 30 sunscreen. The more you know!

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The Big Easy

family in the sun
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Applying sunscreen to your kids isn't always the easiest process. In fact, it can be downright torturous for all parties involved if half of you are opposed to sunblock altogether. For this reason families tend to veer towards spray sunscreens, a fast and easy option that gets the job done quickly while covering littles from head (watching out for those eyes!) to toe. But did you know you really should rub that stuff in? Dr. Pootrakul  references the lab once again. When these sprays are being tested, researchers are laying it on thick (literally).  Whereas in the real world, we tend to mist ourselves with the stuff and go about our business. When in doubt, rub it in.

Time's Up

family in sun
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Before you hit the pool, beach, or park, you slathered your family with sunscreen well and good. You're totally covered...but only for two hours. Yes, you really do need to reapply in that amount of time to maintain coverage, perhaps more frequently if you're sweating excessively or swimming. No one wants to break in the middle of fun to reapply, but no one wants to suffer from sunburn (or worse) either.

Clothing That Cares

family at park
Credit: iStock / Lacheev

Go the extra mile to give your skin the protection it needs with UV-protective clothing. At one time the options were pretty limited in terms of garments that offer this kind of protection, but as more and more UV-protective lines come into existence, the style factor has really ramped up, like affordable options from LL Bean.

Mental Checklist

family at the beach
Credit: iStock / petrenkod

As you're applying sunblock, go through a mental checklist of all of the parts you need to remember. Oft forgotten body parts include the ears, tops of the feet, and the scalp. If the idea of using the same sunscreen you use on your body for the top of your head, there are lots of great hair options, like COOLA Organic Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30 ($26, sephora.com) and Banana Boat Sport Scalp Spray Sunscreen SPF 30 ($6.53, jet.com)

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