When you're sprawled on a beach towel poolside, chances are you've smeared on some white goop in an attempt to fight sunburn.

In Arizona - which has so many cases of skin cancer - protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays takes more than a token application of sunscreen.

The typical advice: Apply two to three times a day; avoid the peak hours; cover up.

Still, many people don't, and women tend to depend too much on their makeup.

Even makeup that has an SPF of 30 may not provide adequate sun protection, especially if it only covers portions of the face (think blush or concealer).

Not only should you reapply sunscreen every couple of hours, but check makeup to see if it has important active ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Paula Morris, the owner of Sweet P's Luxury Organic Skin Care Products and Services, said that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide start protecting skin from ultraviolet A and B rays immediately by bouncing the sun's rays away from the skin.

The sunscreen-savvy have some choices when it comes to the "how" of sunscreen application, though regulations from the Food and Drug Administration may limit those choices. Powdered and towelette sunscreens do not have sweeping approval from the FDA, and the administration is looking into the effectiveness of sprays.

At Sephora, creams still top the list in popularity with customers, said Raquel Lopez, a beauty consultant.

Whatever you choose, checking product ingredients is crucial, as some sunscreens contain chemicals that are controversial.

Local company Sweet P's makes and sells organic skin-care products that use natural ingredients such as prickly pear juice and Tucson-processed jojoba oil. The natural route keeps skin safe from some of the damaging effects of chemicals.

Once you've selected a product, it needs to go on under makeup, even on days spent inside.

"Even if you're driving, ultraviolet rays will get through your tinted windows," said Adrian Hernandez, a cosmetic-product specialist for Specialists in Dermatology. "You see older women wear gloves when they're driving. Be preventative and take that extra step to cover your arms."

No generation quite has the sun-protection thing down. Older generations grew up with less information about the threat of sun damage. Younger generations still sunbathe when the summer rolls around.

And every year, the same message dawns with the summer sun: Lather up.

Dog days of summer

Even your furry friends need protection from the sun - especially if they have white or light coats or lighter-pigmented skin.

Just like people, animals can get sunburned or develop skin cancer.

"If owners think about it for themselves, a hat or sunscreen, then your pet needs something too," said Heide Newton, a veterinary dermatologist for Dermatology for Animals, with offices at 141 E. Fort Lowell Road and 7474 E. Broadway.

Newton recommends keeping pets inside during the sun's harshest hours and applying a sunscreen to areas with thin hair. Although there are some sunscreens out there made specially for pets, a sunscreen safe for children can also do the trick. Look for qualities such as hypoallergenic, waterproof and an SPF of 30 or more.

Of course, slathering sunscreen all over a hairy pet might not work so well, in which case it is time to play dress up.

Clothing both cats and dogs offers a sun-protecting - and amusing - alternative to chasing your pet around with palms doused in sunscreen.

Decoding your sunscreen bottle

SPF (sun protection factor): blocks 97 percent of the sun's rays with SPF 30 or more.

Broad-spectrum: Protects against both ultraviolet A rays that age skin and can pass through glass and ultraviolet B rays that burn skin and are blocked by glass.

Water-resistant: Protects skin 40 to 80 minutes but never fully waterproof.

Source: American Academy of Dermatology

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Powder SPF 45 ($30), available at Sephora in the Tucson Mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road; Sephora.com

Sweet P's Shea Butter Organic Sun Block ($10 for 4 ounces), available at Hush Salon and Day Spa and Tula Wellness, or at the Sweet P's studio by appointment.

Kiss My Face Sun Spray Lotion SPF 30 ($15.99), available at Sprouts, 7877 E. Broadway and several other locations; Sprouts.com

Sweet P's Prickly Pear Antioxidant Sunscreen with Tint ($16 for 2 ounces), available at Hush Salon and Day Spa at 4635 E. Fort Lowell Road and Tula Wellness at 2200 E. River Road or at the Sweet P's studio by appointment; 909-1192; sweetpskincare.com.

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@azstarnet.com or 573-4357.