The New Rules of Sun Safety

Protect your skin from sun damage and cancer with these smart moves.


sun-protection-cowgirl
Kicka Witte/kickawitte.com
Youve been following the rules when it comes to sunscreen for how long now? At this point, youre a diligent daily sunscreen wearer, and you know to reapply every few hours when youre at the beach or pool. (Sorry, no magical stay-all-day sunscreen on the market yet!) But, hey, its 2011—some of the old thinking no longer applies. So update your sun-safety habits, and keep your skin healthy long-term with these thoroughly modern strategies.

Old rule: Apply a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with SPF 15 a half-hour before leaving the house.
New rule: Sunscreen alone is not enough: Wear an SPF 15 (at least) plus an antioxidant-enriched moisturizer.

"Its no longer just about UV dam-age," says Fredric Brandt, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and Miami. "The sun also generates free radicals that break down your collagen and elastin fibers." Anti-oxidants in ingredients like soy, green tea, and vitamin C prevent free radicals from attacking, and they boost your protection level, too. Use a souped-up sunscreen like Prevage Day Ultra Protection Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30 ($125; elizabetharden.com), which contains the powerful antioxidant idebenone. Or make sure your daily moisturizer has antioxidants in it so youre covered from the start, then apply sunscreen as usual.

If youre going to the beach, go higher than SPF 15, Dr. Brandt says. Most people dont apply enough, so they may end up getting a protection level of 7 out of their 15. But if youre slathering on 70? Youll probably get at least a 30, so youre good.

Old rule: Throw on a T-shirt or cover-up when youre in direct sunlight.
New rule: If youre not into sun-protective clothing, wear dark colors and tightly woven fabrics at peak hours.

You cant get away with any ol thing (donning a breezy sarong is like wearing nothing at all). Fabrics have UPF ratings that measure their level of UV protection; a 30 is necessary to be awarded the Skin Cancer Foundations Seal of Recommendation. (FYI: A plain white tee comes in under 10.) If youre up for a quick extra step, check out SunGuard Sun Protection ($2; sunguardsunprotection.com), a clear dye you can add to your laundry for an immediate UPF 30 that will last through 20 washings.


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Ilana Blitzer
Last Updated: April 04, 2011

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