Skin Care

By Andrea Toochin

Normally The Goody Bag is the spot for fun and notable products that don’t fit anywhere else in our publication. This month, we are devoting the entire column to new sunscreen products to teach you, our loyal readers, how to shop for it.

The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) is contributing to the campaign to urge Americans to get skin cancer treatments. I chose to add a dermatologist to my contact list because my mother told me to get checked out. It turns out that once again she was right. My physician, Dr. Luo of Sadick Dermatology, easily spotted suspicious moles and promptly explained how he determined which were potentially perilous. He promptly recited the ASDS acronym used to analyze melanomas: ABCDE – Asymmetry, Borders that are irregular, Color variation, Diameter greater than 6mm, and Elevation. Most think only large moles are a risk but Dr. Luo pointed out that color and texture also matter; small freckles with a dark color might also be of risk so it’s important to compare pigmentation of spots. My first biopsy showed irregular cells; the diagnosis was that over time there was a 40 percent chance it could develop into skin cancer. That was enough for me to give the go ahead to snip and sew.

At a recent ASDS forum, Dr. Allison Vidimos, chair of the department of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, spoke of the systems and treatments regarding melanoma. A startling statistic revealed that many of us are at risk; I learned that malignant melanoma’s are the leading culprit in cancer-related deaths among women aged 25-36. It’d be a shame to let this continue when we have access to excellent products and some of the best doctors in the country, many of whom participated in the ASDS’ Bring a Buddy skin cancer screening promotion last month.

We’ve chosen a selection of products considering skin type, lifestyle, and preferences, but wherever possible Zinc Oxide is the preferred choice for protection. When shopping around, remember if there’s no physical blocker (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) the product only provides 100 percent protection against UVB rays. Some people are more susceptible to burning, like those with pale complexion or slaves to tanning beds, but everyone is at risk. No matter your situation, daily application is the best any of us can do to prevent harm.

Purely Physical
The latest cult brand, Obagi, makes a broad-spectrum block with only physical sunscreen, those that reflect rays. Nu-Derm Physical UV Block SPF 32 contains 18.5 percent micronized zinc oxide, and Healthy Skin Protector SPF 35 contains nine percent micronized zinc oxide; they protect like the opaque zinc of the past, but go on smooth and clear.

Chemical Attraction
Endorsed by the American Cancer Society, Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SPF55 is purely a chemical blocker that absorbs immediately and leaves a beautiful shine.

Prevent Aging
One of Europe’s most respected brands, Lancaster, has brought their coveted line to The States. Recognizing that most products protect against UVB, their scientists created a line to neutralize the sun-induced free radicals that cause aging. This brand has sun protection in every formula you could imagine from the anti-aging blocker to sensitive skin formula, spray sunscreen, bronzing gels and foams, and even powder bronzers with sunscreen.

Spray and Go
Now that Neutrogena and Aveeno have created spray sunscreen for the masses, no one can claim they don’t have time to put on sunscreen. Aveeno Continuous Protection SPF30 contains soy and is the perfect option for anyone on the go. I spray it on my back and neck every morning before I leave and if I had kids, I do it to them too. Though the SPF factor is derived from chemical protectors, the easy application means people will apply sunscreen more often than years past.

For Mommies and More
Everyone has witnessed the scene – a mother on the beach scrambling to coat her child in sunblock while the kid writhes, frustrated, waiting to dive in the ocean or get back to the sand castle. Dr. Schultz’s Stallex line was one of the first to offer sunscreen in a disposable wipe, and now it’s all the rage. Desert Essence makes sunscreen towelettes that come in a handy plastic container with a hole in the lid similar to box of baby wipes. Infused with jojoba and vitamin E, the moisturizing wipes easily fit in a handbag and there’s a bonus – there’s no fear of spillage.

The Best of Both Worlds
If you want it all, physical and chemical sunscreen protection, moisturizing and firming agents, and a product suitable for sensitive skin on the face and body, opt for Lancome Sôleil Ultra SPF 50.

Runner Up
If you’re shopping online, at Sephora or Ricky’s, or even at a health food store look out for sunscreens with natural ingredients such as Alba SUN, Nature’s Gate, J/A/S/O/N and UV Naturals.

The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. but if you need help determining how much block to use, invest in a UV Meter. The small gadget prompts for your skin type and what SPF you’ve applied and then alerts you when you need to reapply. The most important thing to remember is that sunblock should be applied generously every two hours, no exception. Even if the formula is waterproof, it’s best to reapply after swimming.

The sun doesn’t discriminate, everyone is at risk. Melanomas are more visible on Caucasians but Dr. Vidimos cautions that Asians and African Americans often develop melanomas on the hands, nails, and feet. Some people even develop melanomas on their scalp, spots only a hairdresser can discover. This summer, party and sun cautiously, or you’ll be paying later.

Both Obagi products are $40, available at www.skinstore.com

Neutrogena (3 oz $9.49) and Aveeno (4 oz $11.25) items available at CVS, Walgreens, and Duane Reade.

Desert Essence towelettes, package of 25 $12.99, available at www.drugstore.com

Lancome, 5 oz $32.50, available at Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and www.lancome.com

Taylor Precision Products’s UV Meter ($24.99) is available on www.amazon.com. Don’t worry, you’ll have ample time to use it during the holiday vacation in St. Barts.

To search for a dermatologist in your neighborhood, refer to the ASDS site, http://www.asds.net/bringabuddy/volunteerslist.html

Originally published June 2006
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