10 Things You Didn't Know About Sun Protection
1. Your washing machine can help protect your skin.The latest trend in sunscreen isn't something you rub into your skin; rather, it's something you throw in with the laundry. While clothing does provide a barrier between the sun's harmful rays and your skin, many fabrics pack a pretty puny punch. Take lightweight cotton, for instance. Don't count on getting more than SPF 5 protection. However, a new product called SunGuard, endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation, can simply be added to your washing machine load along with detergent to add an extra level of sun protection to your clothes. After your favorite T-shirts and pants are washed and dried, the protective coating is said to block more than 96 percent of the sun's rays from permeating the fabric. Best part? The product is very affordable. One package, just .99, gives a load of laundry protection for up to 20 washings. That's an entire summer's worth of tees!
2. Drinking fruity, alcoholic beverages means you need to reapply sunscreen more frequently.Do you love to lounge at the beach drinking a piña colada or margarita? That umbrella cocktail in your hand may be weakening your sunscreen's effect, says New York–based skincare and beauty product expert Risi-Leanne Baranja, who cites the research of dermatologist Frederic Brandt, MD. "He explained that if you're drinking a significant amount of sugar or alcohol, you are causing inflammation in your skin and you will release more free radicals," she says. "Then the sunlight suppresses your immune system. Therefore, it's important to add more sunscreen in these situations to combat it."
3. Chocolate may protect your skin from the sun.No, don't ditch your sunscreen in favor of a chocolate bar, but researchers say there may be something to our favorite treat's sun-protecting effects. According to a recent study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate may increase your own UV protection. The researchers suggest eating little bits of chocolate—preferably dark chocolate, with 70 percent cacao content or higher—throughout the day to increase your body's natural sun protection. Hey, we're not arguing with that!
4. You're probably not using enough sunscreen.Think about how much you squirt on your hand when applying it in the morning. A dime-size amount? A quarter-size? Both are far from enough, says New York–based celebrity makeup artist and skincare expert Mickey Williams. "Sunscreen should be applied liberally. Most people apply only 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. About one ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered to be the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly." If your face is the only real exposed area of your body, especially during the winter months, follow this advice from Dr. Brandt: "To ensure adequate coverage, apply a teaspoon of sunscreen—at least SPF 30—for your face and neck alone," he says.
5. There's no such thing as "waterproof" sunscreen.Many people think that if their sunscreen is water-resistant, they're good to go all day at the beach. Not so, says Williams. "The general rule of thumb for sunscreen application is to reapply every two hours throughout sun exposure," she says. But if you're in the water, reduce that time frame to every 40 minutes. According to FDA guidelines, explains Williams, bottles marked as "water-resistant" last just 40 minutes during water immersion. Those labeled "very water-resistant" may last as long as 80 minutes before reapplication is needed. But beware of products that claim to provide "all day" protection or are labeled "waterproof," as these are misleading statements and are not supported by the FDA.
6. You can avoid burns by wearing a UV-monitoring wristband.According to David Bank, MD, president of the New York State Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, it's easy to assume that once you've put on sunscreen for the day, you don't need to reapply. Instead of wondering if you're getting too much sun or pressing your finger against your skin to gauge it (which doesn't really work), consider using a smarter method promoted by dermatologists: UV-monitoring wristbands. "These tell you when you should reapply sunscreen based on how much sun exposure you are getting," explains Dr. Bank. "The wristbands provide you with a simple sun-sensitive gauge that alerts you through color change when you need to reapply sunscreen and when to get out of the sun and its potential damaging effects." You can find these types of bands at your dermatologist's office or purchase them online.
7. Sunscreen is controversial.Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults, and according to statistics, skin cancer is on the rise. So why would there be any question as to whether sunscreen is vital and necessary? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released a report linking certain ingredients in sunscreen with an increased cancer risk. Scary? Yes, but Marta Rendon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Boca Raton, Florida, says not to toss your sunscreen just yet. "Every year around this time, EWG releases a report about sunscreens, which winds up confusing and panicking our patients," says Dr. Rendon. "The study that EWG cites was supposedly done by the FDA a decade ago and, in essence, says that vitamin A might have sped up the incidence of cancerous cells in sun-exposed lab animals. However, numerous studies since then have shown the benefits of vitamin A in reversing the effects of sun damage." While she does acknowledge that there needs to be further study on the matter, "everyone should continue taking proper measures to protect his or her skin against sun damage. That includes using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that includes both UVA and UVB protection."
8. Apply sunscreen everywhere—melanoma likes to crop up in strange places."One of the most common places melanoma has been detected is between the toes, an area most women neglect," says Brian Bonanni, MD, a dermatologist practicing at the New York City spa Gotham Skincare. "Sunscreen should be applied to scalp, ears, hands and feet." And don't forget your lips, too. "A physical sunblock with micronized zinc and titanium should also always be applied to the lips. There are now formulas that do not leave white residue on the lips, which women are more likely to use."
9. You should never leave your sunscreen in a hot car.We've all done it—left our sunscreen in a bag inside a car on a hot summer day. But this may weaken its potency, says Dr. Bank. Instead, treat your sunscreen like you would prescription medication and keep it away from extreme heat. "Most preservatives in sunscreens are designed and tested in a range of temperatures close to room temperature," he explains. "If you leave it in a hot car, there is a reasonable chance that the preservative and active ingredients may to some degree degrade so it won't be as effective."
10. Sunscreen can't protect one vital area of the body, so take extra precaution.The one place that's visible to the sun's pelting rays yet can't be protected by sunscreen? That's right—your eyes. According to reports, 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers appear on the eyelids. While you can apply sunscreen to your lids, it's your eyes that sunglasses can really protect. The sun's rays may play a role in eye degeneration and the development of cataracts. A pair of shades can go a long way in protecting your peepers. The American National Standards Institute requires that all shades (even the cheap drugstore varieties!) provide at least 95 percent UVB protection and 60 percent UVA protection.
Sarah Jio is the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com.
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