Whether you’re heading to Lake of the Ozarks, hitting the MKT Trail or wandering through MU’s campus-wide botanical garden, there’s one thing you should have on hand (and face and body): sunscreen. On a scale of 11, the UV index for mid-Missouri has already climbed from one to three since January. In April, it’ll jump to five, and by June, seven. Here are some tips to keep the effects of those dastardly rays at bay.

All day, every ray

UVA rays, a subtype of UV rays, contribute to premature skin aging and wrinkling. They can also penetrate glass. So though you might not think the time you spend driving to work counts against your skin, it does. It might not “add up” in a mathematical sense, says dermatologist Kimberly Cayce of DeSpain Cayce Dermatology Center and Medical Spa in Columbia, but every minute you’re exposed to UV rays without protection takes a toll on your skin. Just because you don’t see damage now doesn’t mean you won’t regret it later.

Let’s get physical

If you’re ready to up your sun-protection game, the first step is choosing between the two classes of sunscreen — physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, and skincare professionals recommend them over their chemical counterparts. These two ingredients act as a shield, making them more effective at blocking UV rays than chemical sunscreens, which absorb into your skin and prevent damage through chemical reactions. Physical sunscreens typically cause less irritation, too, says esthetician Erika Walljasper, owner of Facial Boutique, located in KeLani Wellness Spa. To know you’re purchasing physical sunscreen, look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the label. Also, choose SPF 30 or higher, which can block up to 97 percent of rays, Cayce says.

Learn the labels

If you see “fragrance” listed on the label, the product might do more harm than good, causing reactions such as inflammation. Companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients in fragrance because they’re considered trade secrets, and any number of chemicals could be lurking behind those terms. If you’re worried about sunscreen exacerbating acne, choose products that are noncomedogenic, meaning they won’t clog your pores. And if you’ve already got what you need and are pulling a dusty bottle off the shelf after months of disuse, remember to check the expiration date.

Move over, makeup

The biggest secret to getting the most out of your sunscreen? Make a habit of using it every day. It’s not enough to merely rely on moisturizer or makeup, either. Even if it’s SPF 30 or higher, which isn’t likely, you won’t get the same protection you get from actual sunscreen, Cayce and Walljasper say. So buy some block, and incorporate it into your daily routine. You’ll thank yourself later.

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