Have you ever slathered yourself in sunscreen, headed to the beach with your straw hat and a good book, and then hours later found yourself painfully sunburned despite your best efforts at sun protection? Small mistakes in your protection routine are most likely to blame. Here are five common mistakes you may be making — and the simple ways to remedy them!

sunscreen bottles

Contributed by: Hillary Fogelson

Protecting your skin from the harmful rays of the sun is important — and not just during the summer months. But you may be making a few common mistakes in your sun protection routine that can lead to painful sunburn and skin damage. Which of these mistakes are you making?

1^ Using last year's sunscreen

Over time, the active ingredients in sunscreen become less effective. There's no real scientific way to tell if a product is past its prime, so I use a year from purchase date as a safe rule of thumb. All those aging bottles of SPF in the back of your medicine cabinet can officially be thrown out!

2^Storing sunscreen in your car

Don't feel bad — this is a very common mistake! The problem with storing SPF in your car is that during the summer your car gets hot — really hot — and ironically, sunscreen doesn't like the heat. High temperatures will break down the important UV blocking ingredients and make the product much less effective. I prefer to carry sunscreen in my purse, but if you insist on keeping some in your car, opt for a powdered sunscreen instead of a cream.


Using an everyday SPF in the water

Not all sunscreens are created equal — and not all sunscreens are made for the water! If you're going to the beach or pool, you need serious water-resistant protection — what I like to call “The Big Guns." Everyday, lightweight products are not going to stand a chance against water and sweat and intense heat. Look for sunscreens that say they are water-resistant for 80 minutes.


Waiting to apply

Do you wait to get to the beach before applying sunscreen? I know you've heard this before, but it's really true... it takes most sunscreens at least 20 minutes to start working. Apply SPF before you get in the car and then again as soon as you get to the beach or pool. If you wait until you've unloaded the car and set up towels, umbrellas and chairs, you've probably had a solid half hour in the sun without protection.

5^Apply — and do it again

Hillary Fagelson headshot

Do you only apply sunscreen once? When the bottles say to reapply every 80 minutes, they really aren't kidding. If you're in the water, no product can last more than 80 minutes — and even 8o minutes is pushing it. Some of the latest and greatest products let you reapply while your skin is still wet, so it's super simple to stay safe without interrupting your fun!

Hillary Fogelson is a wife, mother of two, three-time melanoma survivor and the LA Times bestselling author of Pale Girl SPEAKS: A Year Uncovered. For Hillary's practical sun protection advice and product recommendations, check out her website palegirlspeaks.com, or for simple sun safety tips, follow her on Twitter.

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