Shady Business – Keeping Yourself Sun Safe

Credit: Bill Branson acquired from National Cancer Institute

It’s easy to stay sun safe, from top to toe.

Wrinkles. Age spots. Cancer. The list of the ways the sun can hurt us is long. Some medications, including some pain meds and antidepressants, can make you more vulnerable to the sun’s rays (what’s called photosensitivity), making protecting yourself even more crucial.

But sunshine has one key benefit: It helps the body make vitamin D, a vitamin we may not be getting enough of. Vitamin D maintains bone density and may stop some cancers and reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis, says Kathy Fields, M.D., a dermatologist in San Francisco. The journal American Family Physician recently reported on a link between back and bone pain and muscle aches and a lack of the sun-loving vitamin. The best way to keep your levels up isn’t basking on the beach, though, warns Fields. Instead, eat vitamin D-rich salmon and fortified orange juice or take a daily supplement with 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day. And stay vigilant about sun protection from head to toe with these products.

Your Hair. Sun protection factor (SPF) isn’t just for your skin: SPF-infused products defend the scalp and hair against harmful rays too. Overexposure to the sun will cause hair to be dry to the point of breaking, says Mark Garrison, owner of his eponymous salon in New York City. Another perk: Hair products with SPF prevent fading, whether your hair color is natural or from a bottle. Try one of these: Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil ($26; Aveda salons), a mist with wintergreen and cinnamon bark oils that protects locks for 16 hours; and Philip Kingsley Swimcap($35;, which seals hair from the assaults of salt, chlorine and sun.

Your Mouth. Shield lips and keep them hydrated with Burt’s Bees Sun Protecting Lip Balm SPF 8 ($4;

Your Eyes. Don’t forget UV-rated sunglasses or contact lenses, which can help ward off cataracts. We love Selima Optiques Onassis sunglasses ($325; and the Oasys line of contacts from Acuvue ($27.99;

Your Face. It’s tempting to save money by buying one lotion for your face and body, but facial products tend to be lighter and less greasy. For your face, try Korres Watermelon Sunscreen SPF 30 ($28; or Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock Lotion with SPF 55 ($11;, a long-lasting soy-based lotion approved by the American Academy of Dermatology. Women can top that with makeup with SPF, such as Pur Minerals 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup Foundation with SPF 15 ($25; or Cover FX Total Coverage Cream Foundation SPF 30 ($42;

Your Body.  The reality is that an SPF 15 [sunscreen] isn’t really a 15 if you only apply a thin layer, Fields says. Experts suggest putting on a quarter-sized squirt for the face and the equivalent of a shot-glass-full for the body and applying in layers. Slather on the first coat 30 minutes before going outdoors, let that dry for at least 15 minutes and then apply a second coat. That way you’ll have a fighting chance of achieving the full SPF rating and maximizing your protection, she explains. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours and ramp up to SPF 40 or 50 when you’ll be outside for longer periods. We like Ocean Potion’s Broad Spectrum Sunblock SPF 50 ($7.99; It gives half the daily recommended allowance of vitamin D3 with every slather.

Buying Wisely. SPF rates how much protection you’re getting from harmful UVB rays, but the sun also puts out damaging UVA rays. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still working on a UVA rating system, so until then look for sunblock that has broad spectrum on its label, meaning it blocks both kinds of rays. The label should have at least one of the following ingredients in each category to block each type of UV rays: For blocking UVA rays, look for Avobenzone (Parsol 1789), Mexoryl or zinc oxide; to stop UVB rays, look for Cinnamate, Ensulizole, Octinoxate, Padimate A or Padimate O. Watch the expiration date on your sunscreen too; fresher means more effective. Keep it safe from extreme heat (yes, that means the car), which can break down the ingredients protective power. And replace your sunblock if it changes color or consistency or develops an off smell. No expiration date? The Centers for Disease Control says to toss it after three years.


Written By Colleen Moriarty
About the Author:
 Colleen Moriarty is a health and beauty writer living in Connecticut.

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