Defending your skin against its worst enemy has never been easier because of these simple guidelines.
Even though we know sun damage is unattractive at best—deadly at worst—decades of oily, smelly, irritating sunscreen products have done little to leave us clamoring for more sun protection factor (SPF). Fortunately, such products have improved, delivering better feeling, better smelling, safer and easier-to-use products each year. The Food and Drug Administration even did its part by issuing guidelines in 2012 designed to make sunscreen labels more uniform and less confusing.
To make a smart sunscreen buy, hone in on these two phrases, says Emily Horner, M.D., a dermatologist with Saint Luke’s Dermatology Specialists in Kansas City:
- “Broad-Spectrum” This means the product protects against UVA (long wave ultraviolet A) and UVB (short wave ultraviolet B) rays. While UVA rays don’t cause sunburn—that’s UVB rays—they are strongly associated with sun-induced skin cancer and aging effects.
- “SPF 30” An SPF of 30 protects against 97 percent of UV rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Products with higher SPFs are fine but not essential, says Horner. The new FDA-mandated maximum SPF is 50. If you prefer the ease of continuous spray sunscreen, go for it, says Horner. Just be sure to rub it in and allow it to dry. “Otherwise, you don’t get adequate or even protection,” she says. User error! Avoid these top sunscreen mistakes:
- Using too little. You should apply at least 1 ounce—or a shot-glass worth—of sunscreen to exposed skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Horner says, “That’s far more than most people use.”
- “One and done” thinking. Just because you slathered on sunscreen at 9 a.m. doesn’t mean you’re good for an all-day pool party; sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours. Water junkies should pay attention to whether their sunscreen offers 40-minute or 80-minute water-resistance and reapply accordingly.
- Forgetting sensitive spots. Easy-to-miss areas include the part line on your scalp and the tops of the ears.
For Your Best Face
If sunscreen tends to make you break out or sting your skin, Vivierskin Sun Protection SPF 45 ($39) is your saving grace. A broad-spectrum sunscreen for the face, neck and chest, it’s alcohol-free, oil-free and fragrance-free. It feels light going on and is quickly absorbed into the skin, making it the perfect choice to use under makeup or on its own.
Soften and protect your skin in a single step with Mirabile M.D. MedCosmetic SolarProtect Moisturizer SPF 25 ($29) developed by a local doctor and aesthetician for maximum safety and effectiveness. It offers broad-spectrum protection via titanium dioxide, a mineral ingredient recommended by the Environmental Working Group, a leading environmental research and health advocacy organization. Plus, the non-greasy formula won’t clog your pores or cause breakouts. Available at Mirabile M.D. MedCosmetic (4550 W. 109th St., Ste. 103, Overland Park).
Keep Your Hat On
Dermatologists in KC and across the globe agree—wide-brimmed hats are a must-have pool or beach accessory. Hats by Sunday Afternoons ($25 and up) are made of special sun-protective fabrics proven to block 98 percent of all UV rays. Even better—they look great, too! From fishing to Milan, packable to straw, you’ll find a variety of styles for men, women and kids at Monarch Plastic Surgery (multiple locations, including 4801 W. 135th St., Leawood).
Tan in a Can
Fair is fabulous, but some of us can’t imagine not sporting a bronze tint in the summer. The St. Tropez line of self tanning products is our top pick for delivering a natural-looking, even tan—minus the increased skin-cancer risk. We love the pleasant odor, foolproof instructions and quick-drying features. Find the Self Tan Bronzing Spray ($35), Mist ($40) or Mousse ($42) at Monarch Plastic Surgery.
Love Your Lips
Like the rest of your body, your smoocher can be affected by the sun. To prevent UV damage, rub sunscreen directly on your lips or use a lip balm with SPF 30 twice a day. Then, to re-hydrate and reduce lines and peeling, apply PCA Peptide Lip Therapy ($21). Lush lips in 100°F? You bet! Find it at Vargas Face and Skin.