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We’re Not Getting the Sun Protection We Think from Sunscreen

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Jul 26, 2018

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The next time you head out for a day in the sun, double the amount you lather up in sunscreen. A new study has found that most people don’t use enough sunscreen to receive the UV protection it’s rated for.

The research, published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereology, analyzed DNA damage of skin when less than the recommended thickness of 2mg/cm2 was applied. This is the thickness manufacturers recommend, and the thickness at which SPF is determined. Instead, the way most of us typically apply sunscreen (hastily, and thinly) gives us only 40% of possible and expected UV protection.

In the experiment, skin with little sunscreen, exposed to UV rays for five days, received no protection at all, resulting in substantial DNA damage. However, when applied at the recommended thickness, skin exposed to five days of UV rays showed considerably less damage than skin with no sunscreen exposed to one day of UV rays.

“There is no dispute that sunscreen provides important protection against the cancer-causing impact of the sun’s ultra violet rays. However, what this research shows is that the way sunscreen is applied plays an important role in determining how effective it is,” says study author Antony Young, a professor from King’s College London. “Given that most people don’t use sunscreens [as tested] by manufacturers, it’s better for people to use a much higher SPF than they think is necessary.”

Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, in response to the research, suggests SPF 30 or more, so even if you put it on too lightly, you still get adequate protection. Or a good hat and loose clothes. But whether you choose to lather on more, cover up well, or both, the key is not to simply stay out of the sunlight.

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Written By Angelina Shah

Angelina Shah is a staff writer with The Swaddle. In her previous life she was a copywriter in advertising. She has a penchant for reading, singing, travelling and being obsessed with superheroes.

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