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Sun Protection: Right and Wrong Ways to Apply Sunscreen

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Photo: Spray-on sunscreen is one helpful option available to make sure you get thorough protection from the sun. Photo credit: JD Harvill.
Photo: Spray-on sunscreen is one helpful option available to make sure you get thorough protection from the sun. Photo credit: JD Harvill.
June 30, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The powerful Florida sun will prompt thousands to invest in sunscreen for the holiday. But experts say it works only as well as it's applied.

According to Dr. Charles Perniciaro, a Jacksonville dermatologist, sunscreen is most effective when applied about 15 minutes before heading outdoors.

"That's a mistake a lot of people make, including myself," admitted Perniciaro. "It has something to do with allowing the sunscreen to bind to areas in the skin to give you maximum protection."

It's also important to use enough.

Perniciaro estimated 1 ounce, or about the size of a shot glass, to be the right amount for a whole-body application.

He noted that sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours. He also cautioned that no sunscreen will completely block the sun's harmful rays, despite its "SPF," or Skin Protection Factor.

The Skin Cancer Foundation predicts 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. And despite a greater awareness of the sun's dangers, Perniciaro said older people are finding past habits in the sun are already affecting them.

"The generation who grew up in the sun," said Perniciaro. "Parents told them, 'Go outside, it's good for you.' Those are the people that are now in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and they're getting a lot of skin cancers."

Perniciaro said recent sunscreen products include sprays, which tend to be good for children, and sticks, for areas such as under the eyes.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL