‘Tis the season to lather up…here’s all you need to know about protecting your skin this summer
There’s not a woman in America who doesn’t know the perils of tanning (skin cancer, wrinkles, sun spots) – and precious few who aren’t still tempted to tan. If you crave a summery glow, use a fake tanner (with subtler shadings, they no longer make you look like a hot dog) and slather on the sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors. And remember, even if you have darker skin naturally, you still need sunscreen to protect against skin cancer.
Checklist for Sunscreens
UVA/UVB Protection. UVA rays cause wrinkles, freckles and spots. UVB rays cause sunburn. Both can cause skin cancer. Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting or scattering these rays, using ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and mexoryl, which provide protection against both types. Check the ingredients list or look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum UVA/UVB.”
SPF. Sun Protection Factor numbers rise from 4 up into the stratosphere. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a 30 sunscreen will allow you to stay in the sun twice as long. In reality, SPR 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays; SPF 30 blocks 97%. (Ratings for UVA protection are due out this summer.) Some skin professionals recommend 15 or above, but why not go for the gold and get a 30 SPF screen.
Application. The classic advice from the American Academy of Dermatology is a full ounce (think shot glass) for a whole-body application. That’s a lot of sunscreen, so apply what you think you need, and then a whole bunch more. If you’re using one of the new spray-on screens, make sure you can see it glistening all over your skin, that you haven’t left any dry spots. Ideally, apply half an hour before you go outdoors.
Sweating, swimming and rubbing yourself dry afterward are just a few of the things that can cut into your protection. If you’re engaging in outdoor activities, look for “water-resistant” (40 minutes staying power) or “very water-resistant” (80 minutes).
Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy or hazy days and even under a shirt (a typical white T-shirt has a measly SPF of 3). And don’t forget your UVA/UVB protection sunglasses too; these rays can damage the cornea and contribute to the development of cataracts.