The New Rules of Sun Safety
Protect your skin from sun damage and cancer with these smart moves.
Kicka Witte/kickawitte.comYouve 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.
Next Page: Old rule: A little on your face, a little more on your body [ pagebreak ]Old rule: Use a teaspoon of sunscreen for your face, a shot-glass-worth for your body.
Kicka Witte/kickawitte.comNew rule: Layer on your protection to make sure youre covered.
Because nobody actually measures out their dose, heres how to stay safe. First, err on the side of overapplying. (It cant hurt!) Pay attention to commonly missedspots like your neck, chest, and the backs of your hands, particularly when youre driving. "Most people dont realize that the neck and the V of the chest are directly exposedto sunlight due to the angle of the windshield, which offers no protection from UVA rays," says Alysa Herman, MD, a Miami dermatologist specializing in skin cancer treatment. "The backs of hands also get a lot of damage from holding the steering wheel."
A nonstick spray-on sunscreen is an easy way to cover all those spots without getting your hands tacky. Try Banana Boat SPF 110 Ultra Defense Sunscreen Continuous Clear Spray ($11; drugstores). To max out your face coverage, apply a sunscreen lotion and follow up by dusting on a powder-based mineral blocker, such as Peter Thomas Roth Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral SPF 30 ($30; peterthomasroth.com). It has the added benefit of de-slicking post-sunscreen shine. A skin-win!
Old rule: A little sun is healthy—20 minutes three times a week allows your body to produce vitamin D.
New rule: Its not smart to go out-of-doors unprotected.
Heres the deal: Your body does need vitamin D to keep bones healthy and support your immune system, but supplements are the safest way to get your dose of D—without the scary side effects of sun exposure. "Even a little bit of sun causes cellular damage that can lead to aging and cancer," says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Have your doctor check your D level; if its low, discuss taking a daily supplement containing 400 to 1,000 IU.
Next Page: Old rule: Never, ever go tanning. [ pagebreak ]Old rule: Never, ever go tanning.
New rule: Still, never, ever go tanning—indoors or outdoors.
Using a tanning bed increases your risk for melanoma by up to 75%, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. And 90 percent of the signs of aging (wrinkles, brown spots) are caused by UV radiation, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports. (The tan fades; its skin-damaging effects dont.)
But theres one tan that is safe: the kind you slather on. According to a study in Archives of Dermatology, when women are taught to use self-tanners, they spend less time in the sun because they arent longing to bake for the tan. Try Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads ($65 for 50; qvc.com), which give a gradual tint and help fade existing sun spots. Now thats a healthy glow.
Your sun-protection kit:
Ward off UV damage with these summer must-haves.
• Coppertone Oil Free Foaming Sunscreen Lotion SPF 75+ ($9; target.com) comes in a fun foam formula. Lather up!
• Keep hair healthy and shiny with the UV filters in Sebastian Professional Halo Mist Shine Spray ($17; sebastianprofessional.com for salon locations).
• Protect lips by reapplying Avon Healthy Makeup Lip Conditioner SPF 15 in Rose ($9; avon.com) at least every hour.
• La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid ($32; laroche-posay.us) doubles as a hydrating moisturizer.