Is there a wrong way to apply sunscreen?

Summer’s here and that means the return of my young family’s sunscreen rituals (chase, whine, apply, repeat).

Apparently, it’s not enough to trap my oldest daughter keep her from getting away as I try to quickly apply sunscreen so she can dash off the pool to splash around. My almost 4-year-old needs to have the stuff slathered on and reapplied during her frequent dashes back to our spot in the shade before returning to the pool.

A dermatologist from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine makes the good point that if you are going to the trouble of using sunscreen you might as well do it right.

“I've seen mothers at the park spraying sun block on babies from too far away to do enough good,” said Quenby Erickson, the dermatologist and surgeon. “Others dab on too little to protect themselves adequately from the sun’s rays.”

And she added, “if you’ve gone to the admirable effort of buying and applying sunscreen, make sure it's working while you wear it.”

Erickson offered the following tips and warnings to avoid common sunscreen mistakes:

Too Little: Lather it on! Adults need the equivalent of a shot glass full of sunscreen to cover their whole body. And be sure to cover all skin that's exposed to the sun. Don't forget about your ears, back of your neck, tops of your feet, and, if you're balding, the top of your head.

Too Late: Timing is important. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outdoors, and reapply every two hours and after swimming.

Too Far Away: If you're spraying a child at arm's length, you're probably not giving him or her complete protection from the sun's rays. Aim the spray bottle two to three inches away from the body. It's also important to rub spray sunscreen into the skin for full coverage.

Too Old: Sunscreen has an expiration date, and it can be less effective if it's past its prime. If you're using the recommended amount of sun block, it's less likely to sit on the shelf long enough to expire.

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