From my personal experience I know that many teens do not use sunscreen as much as they should. Anytime you plan to go outside for an extended period of time you should use sunscreen. Even on cloudy days sunscreen is still necessary, 80% of the sun’s UV rays can still penetrate your skin on cloudy days. Also, you can still get sunburnt and harmed by UV rays in seasons other than summer, so even if it is not hot outside you should still be using sunscreen on areas you don’t cover with clothes. Something else to take into consideration is your skin tone. The lighter you are, the more you will want to put sunscreen on in order to avoid burning, but even people with dark skin should be using sunscreen, just because you might not get burnt if you have dark skin does not mean that the sun’s UV rays won’t increase your risk for skin cancer, or cause skin aging. Another thing that not many people realize is that when you get tanner in the summer you damage your skin. This damage speeds up your skin’s aging and heightens your chances for cancer.
The most serious threat that sunlight poses is the threat of contracting skin cancer, which is now the most common of all cancers. But, it is easily preventable, using sun protection like sunscreen when you go outside significantly reduces the chances of getting skin cancers like basal and squamous cell cancer. These two types of skin cancer are by far the most common, and also are closely related to a person’s sun exposure. They usually form on areas hit heavily by sun, like the neck. These cancers are not usually deadly, but if they are not treated in the early stages they can cause some serious damage. There is a deadly type of skin cancer called melanoma, and yes, teens can get it too. Having a peeling or blistering burn only 4 – 5 times as a teen will increase your risk of getting melanoma later in life. Bet you didn’t know that.
To give you a visual representation of the damage the sun can do to your skin when you don’t use sunscreen, even without cancer, here is a picture of the difference on each side of the face with and without sunscreen under ultraviolet light - like the sun's.
Most sunscreens protect from both UVA and UVB rays these sunscreens are called broad spectrum sunscreen. (Make sure you are using a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.) Also, when buying sunscreen you should take into account the sunscreen’s SPF or Sun Protection Factor. Any sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher will block about 97% of the sun’s rays and higher SPFs block a little more, but not so much that it really matters. No sunscreen can block out 100% of the sun's’ rays, but if you reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours when you’re outside, the sunscreen will do it’s job perfectly. However, if you use a spray sunscreen, unless you spray into your hand and then rub it on to your body it is hard to know if you’ve covered all of your sun exposed areas. So, with a spray sunscreen either spray generously, or into a hand first. Also, it can be dangerous if the sunscreen gets into your eyes, mouth, or nose, so always spray the sunscreen into your hand if you are using it for your face.
Hopefully by this point you have realized that you do need to be using sunscreen when you go outside. But maybe you are like me, and you won’t always remember to use sunscreen. Well there are some good methods that I have discovered to help you to remember to put on sunscreen. One simple way is to keep your sunscreen near your shoes,(that’s what I do) so when you are putting on your shoes you’ll see your sunscreen. Or, you could leave a post it note on the door so everytime you go outside you see the note reminding you to use sunscreen. One last way that should help is anytime you know that you’ll be going outside and need sunscreen, text yourself a reminder, that way when you actually are going outside you will see the text and remember to use sunscreen. (I really like the last method, I text myself reminders for things all the time)
I would like to think that this post will influence you to use sunscreen more often, or at least will let you realize the reasons for why you should. Honestly I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t use sunscreen in the first place,(unless you forget, like me) because it really sucks to get sunburnt. But anyways, I hope you learned a thing or two from this post, and I wish you a sunburn free summer.
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Thanks Jonathan for this great post! You have made a lot of really good points here. And the tips for remembering to put on the sunscreen are really useful!