We all have different routines for staying healthy, happy and fit, and like exercise, diet and personal hygiene, sun care is a daily practice you won’t want to skip. The first step to healthy skin habits starts with applying sunscreen each morning—365 days a year, no matter where you live or what the weather forecast says. If you only apply one product a day, consider four reasons experts swear it should be sunscreen, and pick up dermatologist-approved tips for adding one to your routine. Dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, shares her advice on the single, simple habit that can help protect you from the short- and long-term effects of UV rays.

Ultraviolet light affects all skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people with all complexions apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher daily to protect against skin-aging UVA and skin-burning UVB rays. 

In the short term, inadequate protection against intense bursts of UV light causes damage to our skin in the form of sunburns and tans—and, yes, a tan is damage. As for long-term damage, scientists have attributed 90 percent of skin cancers and 90 percent of the visible signs of aging (like wrinkles, sunspots, discoloration and saggy skin) to cumulative unprotected exposure to UV light.

Naturally occurring melanin makes dark skin two times as effective as fair skin in protecting against UVB ray penetration, but darker complexions still require the protection provided by sunscreen. Upgrading to a medical-grade sunscreen at your next skin screening will likely win you points with your dermatologist, and, according to Gohara, everyone should consider it. So what makes a medical-grade sunscreen stand out, according to a dermatologist?

If you have dark skin, look for no-residue formulas that blend without leaving white streaks. The blendable factor can be tough to find in a mineral sunscreen made with zinc, but Gohara vouches for facial sunscreen EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for all skin types, including darker tones. 

“I have brown skin, and [a good] facial [formula] blends in perfectly. For those that like sheer formulations, I love EltaMD UV Clear,” Gohara says.

For a more active lifestyle, try a physical sunscreen with the active ingredient zinc oxide and a water-resistant formula, such as EltaMD UV Replenish Broad-Spectrum SPF 44 for the face.

Proper application maximizes UV protection.

Sunscreen has both health and beauty benefits, and it works best when it’s used correctly. That includes adequate application every day in all environments!

The American Academy of Dermatology warns that a higher number doesn’t give you protection for a longer period of time—you need to reapply every two hours regardless of SPF.

If you spend a lot of time outside and only use up half a bottle of sunscreen all summer—you’re probably not using an adequate amount. For full body coverage, you’ll need one ounce for every two hours in the sun.

UV light can be found everywhere.

Everybody should be free to live safely under the sun, so make sure you’re protected from indoor and outdoor exposure as well as natural and artificial ultraviolet rays, rain or shine. As you might expect, the sun is strongest in warm, bright climates, but as a rule of thumb: if there is daylight, there is enough UV light to damage your skin.

If you have an outdoor job, workout routine or history of UV exposure, you need a high-performance sports sunscreen. Look for full-body, no-drip formulas for active lifestyles and labeled water-resistant, ideally for more than 60 minutes to give you longer wear time between applications. EltaMD UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ full-body sunscreen is water-resistant for 80 minutes.

While you’re enjoying the sun, boost your sunscreen routine with other outdoor protective measures like wearing a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses and utilizing shady areas or an umbrella whenever possible.

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen indoors, too. UV exposure while you’re inside can put your skin at risk from UV rays that penetrate through windows in your home, office and car as well as radiation from certain work environments.

Bottom line: wear sunscreen daily on exposed areas, whether you’re out for a walk, commuting to work or just sitting in a room with windows. Even five sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, so don’t skip the sunblock.

It’s incredibly easy to work sun care into your routine.

Adding sunscreen to your daily regimen is not only a basic preventive health habit, it’s a convenient one, whether you like to layer yours under moisturizer or makeup, or it’s the only product you apply.

The key is to find a sunscreen that you’ll want to use each day, so speak with your dermatologist to explore medical-grade sun care options and find a product that is right for you. Most important of all, stick to regular appointments with a board-certified dermatologist at least once a year for a skin cancer screening. Our skin is tasked with the important and constant job of protecting us. Give back and protect it by wearing a sunscreen daily.

Protect Your Skin Year-Round with EltaMD? Skin Care

WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

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