Skip to content
Environmental Health

Slather on that sunscreen correctly

Slather on that sunscreen correctly

Jul. 5, 2023

By Mary Wade Burnside

I’ve been using sunscreen for several years now, but lately, I have upped my sunscreening game.
Previously, my motivation wasn’t purely for health reasons. I also knew I would age better if I slathered on lotion with some SPF (sun protection factor).
“I’m more likely to start looking old than to get skin cancer,” I said to myself.
But the joke was on me! I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma — the one in the middle — in mid-December.
My dermatologist performed a curettage and electrodesiccation procedure to burn the skin cancer off of my skin.
The scar was starting to look a lot better in March when I noticed that there was another mark inside the cigarette burn-shaped circle.
Once again, I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma — which is trickier than the more common basal cell carcinoma but not as serious as melanoma.
This time, I had Mohs surgery, which, in my case, was surgery with numbing in which the doctor peeled back layers of skin and conducted lab testing in real time to see if he would need to continue until the margins were clear.
Luckily, he only had to do this once, and I have a still-healing scar on my calf.
Now I’m really motivated to keep myself safe from the sun. I’ve bought some serious sun hats. And I’m really making sure to get good sunscreen and apply it correctly.
According to a blog on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( website by Anne K. Julian, “Some research suggests that sunscreen users get burned frequently, which may be because they use too little, apply it/reapply it too late, or use it to engage in otherwise unsafe sun exposure, like staying out longer or not wearing protective clothing.
Here are suggestions:
• Use a lot. “Studies have shown that consumers use much less sunscreen than is needed to effectively protect, so use more than you think you need!”
• When it comes to selecting sunscreen, coconut oil is NOT a good ingredient. But a mineral such as zinc is and will help keep the lotion on your body longer.
• Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours, or more frequently if you are sweating, in water, etc.
• Sunscreen quality has improved in recent years and it doesn’t have to be greasy. Nor does it have to be a thick paste that is difficult to smooth into your skin.
When I switched to mineral-based sunscreen a decade or so ago, it was like putting on kabuki makeup, which was self-defeating in the mornings when I was getting ready for work. But now there are several on the market that go on more easily and are absorbed more quickly.
• And finally, take other precautions. “Sunscreen isn’t an all-protective force field,” Julian writes. “It is intended to be combined with other sun-safety approaches, like covering up with clothing, staying in the shade, wearing a hat and scheduling activities to avoid times of day when the sun is most intense.”
Take it from me: Any hassle from using sunscreen is better than getting a painful sunburn and, potentially, skin cancer down the road. So slather it on before (and maybe during) your outdoor activities.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.





Follow Us

Monongalia County Health Department

© 2024 - Monongalia County Health Department.
Website Design + Development: Mind Merge Design