4 common sun mistakes – and how to avoid them

An important sunscreen rule concerns the amount: ideally, up to four tablespoons should be applied per sunbath.
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / chezbeate

At the lake, in the garden, in a café: many people want to enjoy the sun in summer. So that one day you don’t get the receipt in the form of skin cancer, you need good UV protection. An expert warns of common mistakes.

Intense UV radiation can not only lead to sunburn, but also to skin cancer. Sun protection is now a must in summer. Four mistakes to avoid.

Mistake 1: Thinking of a tan as something healthy

Because it is not, as dermatologist Daniela Hartmann from the Munich Clinic Thalkirchener Straße warns. Tanning is our skin’s attempt to protect itself from further damage from the sun’s rays.

Specifically, this happens: When the sun’s UV rays hit our skin, the skin pigment melanin is formed there. In addition, existing melanin darkens. The skin pigment lies protectively over the cell nucleus in the skin cells to prevent further damage to the genetic material, as described by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). Damage to the genetic material can lead to skin cancer.

However, this protective mechanism through a tan has its limits – and it can by no means replace sunscreen. According to dermatologist Hartmann, the body’s own tan has a maximum sun protection factor of four to six. But a good sunscreen provides a sun protection factor of 30 to 50. More on the topic: “There is no such thing as a healthy tan” – when sunbathing becomes dangerous

Mistake 2: Not applying enough sunscreen

A small blob for the whole leg or back – that’s not enough. According to Daniela Hartmann, most people only use a quarter to half the amount of sunscreen that is needed for good protection.

In order to actually achieve the sun protection factor stated on the package, you should use two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. Öko-Test has translated this guideline into spoons: In order to protect themselves from head to toe, adults need three to four tablespoons of sunscreen. More on the topic: Apply sunscreen correctly: Avoid these 6 mistakes

Mistake 3: Only use sunscreen on the beach or lake

Maybe you know that from the past: the sunscreen was with you on trips to the open air pool or on vacation, but it didn’t play a role in normal everyday life.

Everyday sunscreen is very important in summer, as Hartmann emphasizes. Because even if you cycle to work or treat yourself to a cappuccino outside during your lunch break, you are exposed to UV radiation. It can cause damage even if you don’t spend hours in the sun, including sunburn.

Because: According to Hartmann, our skin does not forget. UV damage accumulates over the years – and in the worst case can lead to skin cancer. In addition, UV radiation causes our skin to age faster. More on the topic: Sunscreen at Stiftung Warentest and Öko-Test: All test winners from 2021 to 2023

Mistake 4: Not protecting your eyes from the sun

The eyes can also get a kind of sunburn, which is called photokeratitis in medicine. If UV radiation hits the eyes at high intensity or over a longer period of time, there is a risk of painful inflammation of the retina and cornea.

Typical symptoms are eye pain, a feeling of grains of sand in the eye, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light. And: There is a risk of permanent damage to the retina and cornea.

A pair of sunglasses protects against this. But it shouldn’t necessarily be the model with the small, round lenses. Because then there is a risk that the UV radiation will hit your eyes from the side. Also important when buying: The glasses should be marked with information such as UV-400, 100 percent UV protection or the CE mark.

For more mistakes to avoid in the sun, check out 5 Mistakes Too Many Make Every Summer

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