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The right way to wear sunscreen – Consumer Reports

Get the facts straight about shielding your skin from damaging UV rays

Like brushing, flossing, and eating vegetables, it’s important to wear sunscreen—whether we like it or not. When you let your sun safety habits slide, you leave your skin vulnerable, not only to sun damage that will cause wrinkles and brown spots but also possibly  life-threatening cancer. An estimated one in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

And although genetics can certainly affect your skin cancer risk, proper use of sun protection plays a huge role in prevention. In fact, a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that daily sunscreen use may cut the risk of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) in half.

The key, however, is not just to wear sunscreen but to wear it properly. And research shows that many people don’t. For example, a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology examined sunscreen use in more than 2,000 state fair attendees. Free sunscreen dispensers were placed at 10 fair information booths. Only 33 percent of people who used them applied sunscreen to all of their exposed skin. The rest focused only their faces and arms—leaving plenty of other areas unprotected.

“People were most likely to ignore their legs,” says Ingrid Polcari, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and one of the study authors. “For too many people, sun protection is not a priority. They either underestimate the risks of the sun or find sunscreen a hassle or too messy.”

Click here to find eight common sun-protection beliefs below. Take a look at these true-or-false scenarios and see whether you can separate the facts from the myths.


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