Kevin Paredes/Pipe Dream Photographer Photo illustration: Magdalena Palac, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, applying sunscreen. Sunscreen usage is imperative to prevent premature aging and skin cancer.

Hemlines are getting shorter, the days are getting longer and you’re spending all of your free time outside. But while all of this sunlight might feel good, it can do damage to your skin, regardless of your complexion. Sunscreen usage is imperative to prevent aging and skin cancer and if your mom hasn’t been able to convince you to protect your skin from the sun, hopefully reading this article will.

The sun emits UVA and UVB rays that are bad for your skin. UVB rays cause sunburn and are closely associated with skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper than UVB rays, and as a result cause more long-term damage. These rays are associated with wrinkling, leathering and sagging of the skin. To protect your skin from these harmful rays, you’ll want to look for a specially formulated broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Sunscreens contain varying levels of SPF and deciding which one is best for you can be tricky. SPF stands for sun protection factor, meaning if it normally takes you 10 minutes in the sun to turn red, wearing an SPF level of 15 will make you take 15 times longer to turn red (so about 2 1/2 hours). However, in order to reap these benefits, you must reapply around every two hours.

The most common levels of SPF are 15, 30 and 50. Although the gap between numbers appears to show a huge jump in protection level, the change is relatively minute, with only a 1 percent increase in protection from SPF 30 to SPF 50. Unless you are in intense sunlight for long periods of time, or have a history of or genetic predisposition to skin cancer, this change won’t make much of a difference.

Often, people with darker skin that doesn’t easily burn in the sun skip out on sunscreen. Although sun exposure may not always lead to redness and peeling skin, it can lead to hyper-pigmentation of the skin. Once these dark spots appear, they’re hard to get rid of. Minimal exposure to direct sunlight can help prevent scarring from acne, burns or cuts. Additionally, there is a lower rate of skin cancer in people of color, but people of color with skin cancer have a higher mortality rate than their lighter counterparts, often due to late detection.

Like the rest of the body, your face also needs protection. There are many face moisturizers that contain levels of SPF. Applying sunscreen to your face every two hours can be can be especially tricky on the days you’re wearing makeup. During the day, try to stick to lighter styles and leave the full-face glam looks for night. BareMinerals makes SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen, a tinted face powder that can easily be reapplied throughout the day. MAC carries Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm in SPF 35. In addition to protecting against UVA and UVB rays, these products will help control oil.

All of this being said, the sun’s rays can actually be beneficial in moderation.

The body needs vitamin D to control the metabolism of calcium and to enhance the immune system. Found naturally in foods like fortified milk and salmon, the body can make its own when exposed to direct sunlight. For the majority of the year, people in the Northeast have weak sun exposure, and are therefore prone to vitamin D deficiency. But don’t forgo sunscreen for the sake of vitamin D. Some of the skin on the back of the hands, the face and back should have direct sun exposure for 10 to 15 minutes per day, but if you have sensitive skin that burns easily, you’ll want less than 10 minutes of exposure.