This isn't the only way to get sun damage.

SPF Safety: Are you Susceptible to Sun Damage?

This isn't the only way to get sun damage.
This isn’t the only way to get sun damage.

We all know that it’s not the best idea to lay in the sun at the beach for 10 hours straight. Or even one hour. But if you avoid direct sunlight, does that mean your skin’s safe?

According to skin-care expert and licensed esthetician Renée Rouleau, most sun damage to skin isn’t caused by basking in the sun during lazy summer days without protection. She asserts that the majority of sun damage is caused by everyday activities you might not be thinking of.

“Seventy-eight percent of all the sun damage that occurs in a lifetime is from incidental exposure…driving in the car, walking to the mailbox, gardening,” she says. “During these times of incidental exposure, you may think you’re not outside long enough to get any kind of sun damage — think again. Every time the sun sees your skin, you are increasing how fast your skin ages.”

So how do you avoid sun damage short of wearing your winter ski mask while watering the plants? The answer is right under your sunburned nose: SPF.

Renee Rouleau SPF Rouleau, who sells her own Daily Protection SPF 30, firmly believes that everyone should be wearing a minimum of SPF 15 all over each and every day.  And the best way to do that, she says, is by wearing a moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF (blocking UVA and UVB rays) built right in.

“The key to protecting your skin in the sun is to re-apply your sunscreen generously at least every two hours,” advises Rouleau. “A little dab won’t do ya…you need to slather it on. The same SPF number rules for the body as face — minimum of 15.”

And there are no shortcuts to SPF safety. Rouleau says that swiping on a higher number SPF doesn’t necessarily mean you can avoid reapplying it as often.

“The truth is an SPF 30 only offers four percent more protection than an SPF 15.  As you get up in the higher numbers (SPF 45, 50, 70 +) that percentage comes down, but you’re also exposing your skin to more chemicals which might result in a negative reaction on the skin.”

The lesson here? Everyone is susceptible to sun damage, so don’t skimp on SPF, and reapply often — even if you’re not planning on spending time in the sun.

Photos: Sunbather – Matthew Bowden; SPF – Renee Rouleau