Download EWG's Healthy Living AppClose
First things first
Check your skin regularly for new moles or growth or changes in an existing mole. Ask your primary health care provider how often you should see a dermatologist.
The best defense against too much harmful ultraviolet radiation is a combination of protective clothing, shade and good timing.
Don’t get burned. Red, sore, blistered or peeling skin means far too much sun – and raises your skin cancer risk.
Cover up. Shirts, hats, shorts and pants provide the best protection from UV rays.
Find shade – or make it. Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella or take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade – they are still developing the tanning pigments, known as melanin, that protect skin.
Plan around the sun. Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower. UV radiation peaks at midday.
Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory. Good shades protect your eyes from UV radiation, which may cause cataracts.
Wear sunscreen. EWG’s sunscreen database evaluates the safety and efficacy of SPF-rated products, including sunscreens for recreational use and SPF-rated daily-use moisturizers and lip products. We give the best ratings to products that provide broad spectrum protection – that is, protection from both UVA and UVB rays – with ingredients that pose fewer health concerns when absorbed by the body. Consumers can shop for EWG VERIFIED® sunscreens, making it easier to choose products that are safe and effective.
Some sunscreens prevent sunburn but are less effective at reducing UV rays that cause other types of skin damage. Make sure your sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection.
Don’t fall for high SPF labels. Pick a sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 50+. Higher SPF numbers can tempt you to stay in the sun too long – and even if you don’t burn, your skin may suffer from long-term damage. Consider a more protective product if you are near water or at high elevation and make sure to reapply often.
Avoid sunscreen with vitamin A. Government data shows that tumors and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with creams containing vitamin A, also called retinyl palmitate or retinol. Avoid any sunscreen whose label includes retinyl palmitate, retinol or vitamin A.
Avoid oxybenzone, an ingredient that readily penetrates the skin and has been shown to disrupt the hormone system. Instead look for sunscreen lotions with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the only two sunscreen ingredients categorized as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration.
Don’t combine sunscreen with bug repellent. If you need bug repellent, buy it separately and apply it first.
Don’t spray. Sprays cloud the air with tiny particles that may not be safe to breathe. It is also difficult to apply an even layer of sunscreen that is thick and uniform enough to ensure proper UV protection. Instead choose a sunscreen lotion or stick you can gently rub directly onto your skin.
Reapply often. Sunscreen chemicals sometimes degrade in the sun, wash off or rub off on towels and clothing. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours – more often if you have been swimming or sweating.
Men ignore sun safety at their peril. In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimated about twice as many American men are expected to die from melanoma as women and surveys show that only 48 percent of men report routine sun avoidance, compared to 68 percent of women.
Got your vitamin D? Many people don’t get enough vitamin D, a hormone manufactured by the skin in the presence of sunlight. Your health care provider can test your vitamin D levels and recommend supplements if they’re low.
A few blistering sunburns in childhood can double a person’s lifetime chances of developing serious forms of skin cancer. The best form of sun protection is a hat, shirt and shade. After that, protect kids with a sunscreen product that’s effective and safe.
There are special precautions to take with infants and children.
Infants under 6 months should be kept out of direct sun as much as possible. Their skin is not yet protected by melanin. When you take your baby outside:
Toddlers and children
Sunscreens are an essential part of a day in the sun. But young children’s skin is especially sensitive to chemical allergens, as well as the sun’s UV rays.
Sun safety at school
Send sunscreen to daycare and school. Some child care facilities provide sunscreen, but you can buy your own to make sure it’s safe and effective. Share EWG’s safe sunscreen tips and product suggestions with your child’s school and caregiver.
Find out your child’s school’s sun safety policy. Sometimes daycare and school policies interfere with children’s sun safety. Many schools treat sunscreen as a medicine and require written permission to use it on a child. Some insist that the school nurse apply it.
Teenagers who covet bronzed skin are likely to sunbathe or visit tanning salons, both of which are a bad idea. Researchers believe that increasing UV exposure may have caused the marked increase in melanoma incidence noted among women born after 1965. Tanning salons expose the skin to as much as 15 times more UV radiation than the sun, and tanning bed use has been directly linked to increased rates of melanoma in women.
Tan does not mean healthy. Be a good role model for your teens – let them see that you protect yourself from the sun.