Planning a road trip? Since the average car owner puts roughly 13,500 miles on their vehicle every year, there’s no better reason to add some mileage on than a vacation with your loved ones. So once your GPS is up and running like it’s 1996 when it was invented, it’s time to hit the road! Right? But before you head out on the open road and start making amazing memories, you might want to give some thought to how you’re going to maintain your health while you’re traveling no matter what time of year your are venturing out.
Whether you’ll be driving for only a few hours or are planning to make your way across the country, it’s essential to be proactive about protecting your skin. After all, just five serious sunburns can increase your skin cancer risk by a startling 80%, according to one study. And since no one wants to deal with pain or discomfort during a vacation, here are some steps you can take to minimize your risk of getting burned.
Always Wear Sunscreen
There’s a pervasive myth that makes us believe we don’t need to worry about wearing sunblock if we’re not outside and in direct sunlight. On the contrary, you should be wearing sun protection pretty much all the time. Even if you’re indoors, it’s cloudy outside, or you’re driving, you need to protect your skin.
You might feel like there’s an impenetrable barrier between you and the sun when you’re in the car, but studies show that UV rays can actually penetrate your vehicle’s windows; even if your windshield filters out UVB rays, UVA rays can still find their way to you.
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In fact, UV exposure is five times higher for your left arm and 20 times higher for the left side of your face, as American drivers will be more exposed to the sun in this way. And the more time you spend behind the wheel, the greater your chances of sustaining skin damage.
Tinting your windows with a UVA filter can help, but you should still wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. Essentially, this means that your family should get into the habit of applying sunblock as part of your daily routine, whether or not you’re planning on spending time outdoors
Apply (and Reapply) Properly
By now, you already know it’s important to apply sunscreen. But do you actually know how to do it the right way? For one thing, you probably aren’t using enough product. Experts recommend that you use at least a teaspoon of sunblock for each leg, your chest, and your back. You can use a half teaspoon each for your neck, each arm, and your face.
Don’t forget the tops of your ears, your scalp, and your hands. Be sure to rub it in thoroughly, even if you’re using a spray product. What’s more, you’ll need to reapply every two hours, as well as after exercising, swimming, or sweating.
You might want to set some alarms on your phone to remind your family when it’s time to put on more or designate one person to be on sunscreen duty throughout your trip.
Don’t Store Sunscreen in Your Car
We’ve already covered the importance of wearing sunscreen while driving. But in one particular instance, sunscreen and cars can be a bad combo. It’s not advised that you keep a bottle of sunscreen in your car for the sake of convenience. That’s because the product can expire much more quickly when kept in a hot vehicle.
Although the FDA maintains that most sunscreens will last for three years after the manufacturing date, the chemicals in these products will break down if they’re left in the sun or a scorching vehicle. If your family uses this sunscreen, they won’t be protected from damaging UV rays.
What’s more, sunscreens and other topical personal care products can actually damage the interior of your car in hotter temperatures. While you shouldn’t have to worry about that if you’re using the air conditioning and are keeping the cabin comfortable during your drive, it’s just one more reason to figure out a different storage solution.
Skip the DIY Sunblock
DIY trends are pretty much everywhere these days — and in many cases, going the do-it-yourself route can help you save money and keep unwanted ingredients out of your life. However, experts maintain that you shouldn’t attempt to protect your skin with homemade sunblock.
There are thousands of recipes for DIY sunscreen on Pinterest, but a recent study found that nearly 70% of those sunscreens studied provided insufficient UV radiation protection. Essentially, this means that while these recipes may look and sound like they’d work, the vast majority could actually end up doing much more harm than good.
Just because something is all-organic doesn’t mean it’s effective, maintains dermatologist Dr. Tanya Nino. “The issue with DIY sunscreens is that they cannot be reliable in terms of the degree of sun protection they provide,” Nino told Healthline.com. “Commercially available sunscreens have been extensively tested to determine their ability to prevent sunburn. DIY sunscreens may claim to have a certain SPF, but without the proper testing, the actual SPF may be lower than intended.
In addition to the active ingredients in sunscreens, there are also ingredients that stabilize the sunscreen over time, help it spread evenly over the skin, and help make sure it’s actually durable in UV light. Achieving this level of quality in DIY formulations is not reliable.”
So while it might be tempting to go all-natural with your sunscreen and make it yourself, it’s best to stick with FDA-approved products. That doesn’t mean you have to use a big brand, but the product should be commercially available and tested to meet industry standards.
Of course, you should also take care to wear protective clothing, seek out shade and shelter, and minimize your time in the sun during peak daylight hours. And make sure you plan ahead when it comes to stocking up on sunblock. Don’t be one of the 82% of people who make purchasing decisions in-store. By keeping these tips in mind, you can do your part to reduce sun exposure during your next road trip.