Screen Test: What Kind of Sun Protection to Buy and How to Wear It

By Amelia Harnish

Grabbing a bottle of SPF 30 isn't enough. To really protect yourself from sun damage, you need to know what's in a product and how to apply it.

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Sun Smarts

Slathering on sunscreen is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Yet only 43 percent of women regularly use a product with an SPF of 15 or higher, according to a National Cancer Institute report. Even if you're diligent about wearing sunscreen, you might not be getting adequate coverage, says Steven Wang, MD, director of dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "The protection you get in real-life use, called effective SPF, is only one-third of what it says on the bottle." Why? Most women aren't applying sunscreen correctly or they aren't using a product with enough oomph for their activities. "Sunscreens are tested in laboratories in ideal conditions. When you get outside, and you're sweating or swimming, it's a different story," adds Ronald Moy, MD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology. Our guide will steer you to the smartest choices.

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