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Sunblock: It’s a summer staple--along with strappy sandals and bottles of rosé. But for something that’s so commonly found in your cabinets and beach bags, it sure is misused. Here, we clear up any confusion so you can bask--not burn--in the light.

spf number list1

Myth: The higher the number, the better

Truth: The number merely indicates how long you can stay in the sun without burning--not how much protection it provides. (So tell your sun-phobic friend who only buys SPF 85 to relax.) Most dermatologists agree that an SPF of 30 (or 50 if you’re going to be in direct sun) is adequate. More importantly, make sure that it says “broad-spectrum” on the label, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

spf timing list

Myth: It doesn't matter when you apply it

Truth: Your skin needs at least a half hour to soak up the sunscreen in order to provide proper protection. Keep a bottle by the sink and make it one of the first things that you do each day (say, right after washing your face) so you don’t end up slapping it on haphazardly while rushing out the door.

spf formulas list
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Myth: It doesn't matter what type you use

Truth: Sticks, lotions, oils, sprays…the best type of sunscreen is the one you’ll enjoy using the most (so you won’t mind reapplying it). Lotions are great because they can be applied easily from head to toe, but sprays are gaining popularity because they’re so darn convenient. To make the most of your mist, hold the can a few inches away and spray until your skin is noticeably glistening. Then rub it in well so it doesn’t wipe off when you get dressed.

apply spf list

Myth: A thin layer is enough to cover you up

Truth: You probably don’t give much thought to exactly how much sunscreen you’re applying, but chances are it’s not enough. If you’re spending the day outdoors, derms recommend that you use an ounce (approximately a shot glass full) of the stuff on the exposed parts of your face and body. If you’re headed to the office, then, OK, just a quarter-sized amount for your face and neck will suffice.

RELATED: The Best Sunscreen Trick We’ve Learned This Summer

waterproof spf list

Myth: You don't need to reapply waterproof formulas

Truth: Technically, it’s not waterproof--just water-resistant, which means it wears off eventually. Like when you sweat, or swim, or towel off. If you’re coming out of the water, reapply as soon as you get out and are dried off. If you’re just lounging (and sweating) outside, reapply every two to three hours.

cloudy day list

Myth: You don't need it on cloudy days

Truth: Though it certainly looks (and feels) like the clouds are covering up the sun, they’re not blocking its rays. UV rays are present all year round, in all parts of the world, no matter the forecast. And clouds can actually reflect the rays, causing even more damage to your skin. Lather up.

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Myth: Last year's bottle should do

Truth: An expired bottle of sunscreen is just about as good as an expired bottle of milk. The active ingredients (you know, the ones that protect your skin) break down over time, making them ineffective. At the start of each season, give your beach bag a good purging--and restocking.

RELATED: 5 Problem-Solving Sunscreens

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