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Who doesn't love a little sunshine -- the way it warms up the skin and makes an ordinary day feel just a little like a vacation? But if you also love healthy skin -- smooth, vibrant, vital -- then listen up. The sun's ultraviolet waves (UVA and UVB rays), which are present year-round and in all climates, play a significant role in "photo damage," also known as premature skin aging. What this means is that those feel-good rays are also to blame for your biggest skin woes. "Photo damage is characterized by skin that has a leathery texture, wrinkling, freckling -- often diffused so that the skin's tone appears uneven -- as well as large pores and broken capillaries," says Jeannette Graf, MD, a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York, who is affiliated with New York University Medical Center.
The good news here -- and there is good news -- is that you have the power to keep your skin healthy and beautiful. All it takes is a little sun-protection know-how, as well as the best of the new product innovations.
First, a few sunscreen facts: Sun protection factor (SPF) lets you know how long you can expose your protected skin to UVB waves (the sun's burning rays) without getting sunburned. But that rating, introduced around 30 years ago, does not address UVA damage. As Los Angeles dermatologist Joshua Wieder explains, "Both waves have acute and chronic symptoms. UVB is a short wave that burns and UVA is a long wave that penetrates deeper and causes the skin problems that sneak up on you -- dryness, wrinkles, color changes." Of course, both rays contribute to skin cancer. In the absence of a standardized system for measuring UVA protection, look for the term "broad spectrum," which means that the product protects against UVA and UVB. Broad spectrum ingredients can be physical, such as zinc or titanium dioxide, or chemical, usually avobenzone, also known as Parsol 1789, which is stabilized by Mexoryl or Helioplex to provide better protection against the UV spectrum. Suncare experts have now figured out how to make it last longer than before.Color with Caution
Sunscreen has been worked into every type of facial cream, including the anti-wrinkle variety. Even gradual self-tanners, which were such a hit last year, have been given an SPF boost. Pick your perfect tone out of the light, medium, and dark shades and watch your "tan" develop over a couple of days, all while having the extra security of SPF.We Like:
The sun's rays, particularly UVA, are so omnipresent that it's smart to protect yourself even while you're driving or sitting at your desk, since UVA rays can penetrate through glass. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that drivers tend to have rougher, more-pigmented skin on their left side. Luckily, window films, which come in different tints and block out more than 99 percent of ultraviolet rays without compromising visibility, can be applied to your car and home windows. Do it yourself with just a few household tools, or have a professional coat your windows for you. Log on to www.skincancer.org for a complete list of resources. You can also control how much UV exposure you're getting with UV Hawk, $29.95, a small, handheld device that lets you know what the UV levels are at any given time. Or try out SunCheck UV Monitors, $4.99, for a pack of 18; these tiny stickers that you affix to your skin turn blue when you've had enough sun.
Here's another reason to love makeup: It gives you that extra boost of sun protection and makes reapplication, which dermatologists always recommend, a snap. From SPF-fortified foundations that make your skin feel like silk to powders that have staying power, they're an ideal addition to your healthy-skin routine. This isn't an invitation to toss the sunscreen in the trash, however. Thoroughly coat your bare skin with sunscreen before following up with makeup. As dermatologist Dale Abadir, a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation, explains, we tend to apply our makeup just on select areas of the face. "Spread broad-spectrum sunscreen all over your face, up to your hairline, neck, and ears -- I see so much melanoma on the ears!" she says.We Like:
"The wider the brim of the hat, the better," reports Dr. Abadir, "and remember that baseball caps don't protect completely since the ears are still exposed." Consider giving a hat that's precoated with sun protection a whirl. Coolibar, the first line of sun-protective clothing to receive the Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation, makes stylish straw hats, $29.95, that block 98 percent of the sun's UV radiation. You still need to make sure, however, that your entire face, including your ears and neck, is slathered with sunscreen.
The thin skin on the eyelids and lips desperately needs extra protection but in the past, most active sunscreen ingredients had been too irritating for these delicate areas. New formulas balance these protectants with soothing botanicals -- precisely what you've been waiting for!We Like:
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2007.