By Meredith Clinton Bell
It’s finally summer! Something about this season makes me feel like a kid again. But with summer comes the hot sun and its harmful effects we’ve all heard about over and over (cue the eye roll). It’s alright, we’ve got the facts and products you need to stay safe while enjoying everything that goes along with this great season.
Full disclosure: I haven’t always been as particular about my sunscreen usage as I am about my highlights or wardrobe. I know there are plenty of you in my shoes who feel a little guilty about soaking up some rays to darken your skin tone. But it’s time to stop ignoring that nagging voice in the back of your mind and start protecting yourself. Consider this a self-defense class for your skin.
Let’s start with the ABCs of ultraviolet radiation – with a little help from the Skin Cancer Foundation – so we know what we’re fighting and why. UVA rays cause long-term damage like premature aging and wrinkles. UVB rays are the ones that give us sunburns and cause immediate visible damage. And, finally, UVC rays can’t break through the Earth’s atmosphere, so we don’t have to worry about those (but something had to be the “C” in ABCs).
Both UVA and UVB rays cause skin cancer – the most common cancer in the United States. Every year there are more new people diagnosed with skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined. Yikes! That’s a powerful statistic. The Skin Cancer Foundation also reports that the previously held belief that most of our UV ray exposure happens before the age of 18 is untrue. So, don’t think you can feel better about tanning just because you’re an adult.
Okay, scary stuff is out of the way, now’s it’s time to learn some defense techniques against these UV rays. The no-brainer: sunscreen and sunblock. I enlisted the help of certified pharmacist and proprietor of C.O. Bigelow Apothecary, Ian Ginsberg, to help explain the difference. Sunscreens are the chemical blockers, which have organic materials that absorb UV rays before they can damage the skin. Sunblocks, on the other hand, physically block the UV rays with inorganic ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These metals sit on the skin and deflect and scatter UV rays.
Another little tidbit to keep in mind: SPF only refers to the product’s ability to block UVB rays. We currently have no system to measure the ability of a product to block UVA rays, but watch for something soon. That being said, it’s important to look for products that offer “broad spectrum” protection, which means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply a shot-glass full of product every two hours and you should be set!
Now for the fun part:
Your best face forward…
Perfect for on-the-go, the Surf-Vival SPF 30+ Face Stick fits in your purse and is easy to reapply: just open cap and rub on. Better yet, it’s organic and made in the USA. Another pint-sized face product at 1.2 oz, the new Shiseido Ultimate Protection Cream SPF 55 is allowed in your carry-on to keep you uber-protected anytime anywhere.
To risk stating the obvious, protect all of your face. La Roche-Posay’s Hydraphase UV Eyes SPF 29 is specifically designed for that delicate eye area. It’ll even help reduce bags and puffiness. And for the lips, Watch Your Mouth lip balm from True Blue Spa goes on easily and offers a whopping SPF 45.
These broad spectrum sunscreens are on double duty. Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk and emerginC SPF 30+ are loaded with antioxidants to give your skin cells an extra boost in their fight against the elements. Elemental Herbs Sunscreen Sport is too, but with an eco-friendly twist: it’s all natural and biodegradable. One last plus for each – no scent and zero residue means they’ll blend seamlessly with your daily attire.
A sensitive side…
For something extra gentle, Coppertone’s Sensitive Skin with SPF 50 for face and body has no alcohols, dyes, or oils. Proven effective, even for rosacea, you won’t notice you have it on. And from abroad, Sothys Paris Sun-Sensitive Areas Care is hypoallergenic and formulated especially for sensitive skin. It works well on face and body.
Coppertone: Drugstores and http://www.drugstore.com;
Sothys: Sothys Institute, New York and http://www.skin-one.com
It’s true…sunscreen can actually be fun to put on! Or at the very least, effortless. Clinique SPF 25 Body Spray is in an aerosol can that mists SPF goodness on in seconds. And the Desert Essence Sunscreen Towelettes actually smell like you sometimes wish all sunscreens still did…the beach. Both products dry quickly and leave no mess.
A personal fave…
Renée Rouleau’s Daily Protection SPF 30 glides on so smoothly, I can’t get enough. It’s extra-light and has a faint scent that doesn’t interfere with perfume. Is a great sunscreen the key to true happiness? I can’t tell for sure.
For further steps in your fight against the sun: wear sunglasses with UV polarization – most are, but make sure they’re marked as such. Oh and skip those sunglasses with the mirrored lenses, not only do you not look cool, but they reflect the rays onto the nose causing skin cancer in that spot on those that wear them consistently. Stay out of the sun when possible between 10:00AM and 4:00PM, wear big hats and protective clothing. Many stores now even offer clothing with SPF protection. (I know you knew all this, but I’m just doing my due diligence.)
Alright, that concludes the self-defense class for your skin! Now get out there and make me proud. Enjoy the sun…safely.