Be sun-kissed and healthy
Get solar-empowered with these secrets for staying healthy (and looking gorgeous!) in the sun.
A: Application 101
The biggest mistakes women make when applying sunscreen? Not using enough and not reapplying. It takes 1 ounce (enough lotion to fill a shot glass) to cover your body properly. And no matter what type of sunscreen you use, you have to reapply immediately after swimming or every two hours you’re outdoors.
B: Burn fix
If you get burned anyway, drink water to rehydrate, then smooth on a post-sun moisturizer with vitamin E ($11, Hawaiian Tropic).
C: Covering up
Light cotton clothing offers less protection than an SPF 10 lotion. So look for items with at least a UPF 30 (UPF is how fabric manufacturers measure protection) to wear when you’ll be outside for a while. Alex and Me offers UPF-rated clothing from brands like Patagonia, Columbia, and Solar Eclipse.
D: D vitamin debate
Vitamin D regulates your immune system, keeps your heart and bones healthy, and may help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent certain forms of cancer. In short, it’s good stuff. The problem: most people don’t get enough. And some experts believe it’s because of decreased sun exposure. (Our bodies produce D when exposed to the sun sans sunscreen.)
But that’s not a free pass to tan. Many doctors (especially dermatologists) prefer you get it from a healthy diet or even a supplement rather than going without sunscreen. “It’s just not worth the risk of skin cancer,” says Deirdre Hooper, MD, a dermatologist in New Orleans.
E: Expired already?
A bottle of SPF won’t last more than a few weeks if you’re using as much as you should. If it does, toss it after a year. The formula’s less effective over time and it deteriorates even faster when exposed to heat.
F: Flavanol’s benefits
A recent study showed that people who ate a diet supplemented with flavanol-rich dark chocolate were less susceptible to the harmful, aging effects of UV light. Sweet news!
Photo: Grant Cornett
G: Glow with the faux
It’s possible to get your glow on and stay protected with new SPF-laced bronzers. This pick ($35, Peter Thomas Roth) contains two SPF-30 powders in one tube: on one side, a tanning bronzer; on the other, a subtle luminizer.
H: Hair help
Damaging UV light can fade your hair color and dry out strands so they’re less shiny. The fix? Mist on a UV protectortry this one ($16, Redken)and don a scarf or hat for extra protection, says Mark Garrison, a stylist in New York City.
I: Iron—skin saboteur?
"Tap water contains low levels of iron that remain on skin even after you shower,” according to Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Studies show the iron molecules react when exposed to UV light and form skin-damaging free radicals. Sunscreens help, but some UV light still gets through. So, opt for a sunscreen that contains chelators, organic compounds that neutralize iron. Try Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Powerful Sun Protection SPF 30 Daily Sunscreen Towelettes ($18).
K: Kid stuff
If you wear contacts or have sensitive eyes, consider using children’s sunscreen on your face. “The formulas are usually run-resistant, so they are less likely to get in your eyes,” says Cheryl Lee Eberting, MD, a dermatologist in Alpine, Utah.
Photo: Grant Cornett
L: Lip tips
Gloss may act like a magnifying glass on your lips, experts say, increasing the transmission of light and upping your risk for skin cancer. So prep your lips with an SPF 30 balm; we suggest Nivea's A Kiss of Protection ($2.49) before applying gloss. Or switch to lipstick—its sun-filtering abilities may help lower your cancer risk, according to one study of Los Angeles women.
M: Mole check
Skin spots with smooth borders, symmetrical shapes, and a uniform color are usually harmless. If you notice any that look like this, head to the doc for a checkupit could be skin cancer.
N: Natural SPF
Sunscreens labeled “natural” protect with mineral-derived ingredients (like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) that form an invisible barrier on top of your skin. For an eco-friendlier option, try a biodegradable version that’s also less damaging to marine life, like SmartShield SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion ($12).
O: Overcast? You still need SPF!
"The sun's UV light does get through on cloudy days,” according to Dr. Eberting. In fact, some types of clouds can actually increase UV intensity by reflecting and refracting sunlight. Bottom line: wear sunscreen every time you head outside.
P: Prescription don'ts
Almost half of all medications can make your skin more susceptible to sunburns. And "some prescriptions require you to avoid sun completely," Dr. Hooper says. Ask your pharmacist if your meds have this side effect.
Photo: Getty Images
Q: Quick-spray tip
Using a continuous spray instead of lotion? It takes 15 to 20 seconds of misting to dispense the 1 ounce needed to cover your body.
R: Red alert!
If you turn red in the heat (and we’re not talking sunburn), you could have rosacea, a condition that causes flushing and pimples. Sound like you? Talk to your doctor; prescription meds, such as MetroGel, can decrease symptoms.
Photo: Grant Cornett
S: SPF made simple
SPF measures protection from UVB rays. But you need a sunscreen that also offers UVA protection (sometimes labeled “broad-spectrum protection”). A good one to try: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid ($29).
Derms recommend using at least SPF 30, which allows only one-thirtieth of the sun’s UVB rays to reach your skin (meaning you’re protected against 97 percent of the UVB rays).
Sun-blocking powers don’t increase significantly once you get past SPF 30 (e.g., SPF 60 is not double the protection of SPF 30). That said, there is some benefit to higher SPFs. “Many people don’t apply enough lotion to get the full SPF 30 protection promised on the label, so even that little extra protection can be helpful,” Dr. Hooper says.
Photo: Grant Cornett
U: UV light decoded
Invisible UV light is broken down into several wavelength ranges. Here’s why you need both UVA and UVB protection.
UVA: Think of the A for “aging.” This light penetrates deeper into your skin, causing cellular damage that may lead to skin cancer. It’s also responsible for 80 percent of skin aging, like spots, wrinkles, and sagging.
UVB: Think of the B for “burning.” This light causes skin to redden and can lead to skin cancer over time.
Photo: Grant Cornett
V: Visible-light warning
New research shows some forms of visible light are damaging, too. HEV light (the light waves that give the sky its blue color) can cause free radicals to form on your skin that lead to oxidative damage, which speeds up the aging process.
Minimize the negative effects of HEV light by applying a sunscreen with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals before they can cause wrinkles and spots. We like this one from the new Spectrum+ line from Neutrogena ($10).
W: Waterproof sunscreen...
...doesn’t exist. Period. But there are highly water-resistant sunscreens formulated to stay put when you sweat or splash. Try VMV Hypoallergenics Armada Sport 70 ($40). But remember: you still need
to reapply when you get out of the water since towelling off can wipe away even water-resistant sunscreen.
X: Xanthine every morning
Found in coffee and tea, this antioxidant has been shown to “quench UV-induced hydroxyl radicals and reduce oxidative DNA damage,” according to Jennifer Linder, MD, a dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. Translation: a daily cup o' joe may help you look younger by limiting the damaging effects of the sun.
Y: Yeast that’s good for you
Vitamin B–rich yeast extract has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great post-sun skin soother. Find it in Rilastil Dermosolare Suncare After-Sun Lotion ($43), a soothing moisturizer that also has vitamin E to help repair parched skin.
Z: Zinc oxide minus the chalky white
Though it’s one of the best sun-blocking ingredients available (and great for sensitive skin), zinc oxide may make you think of Baywatch-era lifeguards with white-coated noses. But most of today’s zinc oxide sunscreens use a finely milled version of the ingredient that’s invisible, even on dark skin. Try Zinka Clear SPF 30 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen ($9).