Skin cancer is the most common cancer, and protecting ourselves from the sun is crucial. So here are the facts you should know about sun protection:
First you can’t replace sunscreen with a pill. There are a number of pills on the market that claim to protect people from sun damage. One of the most popular is Heliocare, and the company claims the pill's anti-oxidants help to minimize your skin's sensitivity to the sun. But the FDA has yet to approve any sun-protection pills. And even if they’re eventually proven safe and effective, they’ll only make you slightly less sensitive. So you’ll still need to wear SPF 30 sunscreen, and reapply it every two hours.
Should you toss last year’s sunscreen? No. Most sunscreens don’t expire for three years. But if one tube of sunscreen lasts you the whole summer, you're not using anywhere near enough. To protect yourself in a swimsuit, you should slather on an ounce of sunscreen every two hours or after a swim. Which means, you should use about half an eight-ounce bottle during ONE day spent at the pool.
Will a T-shirt protect you? It depends on the shirt. Some fabrics deflect more UVA rays than others. For example, the average white T‑shirt only provides protection equivalent to SPF 3. You’re better off wearing sports clothes labeled as Sun Protective or using a sun protection rinse for clothes, like SunGuard, which is supposed to provide an SPF 30 rating.
One more sun-protection fact: Treating a sunburn won’t reverse skin damage. Experts say aloe vera and ibuprofen just relieve the swelling and discomfort. But once you’re burned, your skin is damaged on a cellular level. The only real protection from skin cancer is to keep from getting burned in the first place.