By now, most people know it’s a bad idea to head out in the sun for hours of sunbathing to earn a golden tan. But there’s more to sun protection than just dabbing on any old sunblock. And, particularly for people with specific autoimmune disorders, protection from the sun should be a serious perennial consideration.

“Everyone should get into habit of wearing sunblock year round, but people with autoimmune issues need to be much more vigilant about covering up their skin,” says dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of Stop Aging, Start Living (Crown, 2007).

People with lupus, for example, need to be covered from head to toe when they’re out in the sun because exposure can trigger a painful flare. Some people on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) develop increased sensitivity to sunlight. Conditions such as dermatomyositis, scleroderma and vitaligo are also autoimmune diseases that are sun-sensitive, says Oanh Lauring, MD, chief of dermatology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

“They need good sun protection all day long, every single day,” says Dr. Lauring.

But even if you don’t have an autoimmune illness or take sun-sensitive medication, sun safety should be part of your daily routine.

Sunscreen. Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen and they don’t reapply it often enough, says Dr. Graf. The key is to slather it on thick. Don’t just spread a thin film and think you’re protected. Use the equivalent of one to two shot glasses of lotion depending on your size and don’t forget areas such as the backs of your ears and the tops of your feet. Apply it 30 minutes before sun exposure and, if you’re still outdoors 90 minutes later, reapply it all over again.

An SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or 45 should be sufficient for most people. There’s not a huge benefit of a higher SPF than that, says Dr. Lauring, but there is an increased risk of skin allergies when more chemicals are added to increase the SPF. But the SPF isn’t the only thing you should look for on your sunscreen label.

The SPF only refers to protection against ultra-violet B (UVB) rays. This is the ultraviolet light that is stronger in summer, sometimes called the “tanning rays.” Until recently, researchers thought these were the most damaging rays, but studies have found that daily ultra-violet A (UVA) light can also be very harmful. Look for ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or avobenzone. These are UVA and UVB blockers and will make your sunscreen more effective.

The good news is that you don’t need expensive lotions with fancy ingredients to keep you protected. Some of the best protection can come from some of the biggest names in the sunscreen business – Coppertone, Banana Boat and Neutrogena – says Dr. Graf. All three companies make easy-to-apply, no-rub sprays, which can be easier to apply than lotions for people with arthritis.