Staying Sun Safe this Summer

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

Wrinkles. Age spots. Cancer. There’s a long list of ways that the sun can damage our skin. Not only that, some medications, including specific pain meds and antidepressants, can make you more vulnerable to the sun’s rays. This is known as photosensitivity, and makes protecting yourself from the sun even more crucial.

But sunshine has one key benefit. It helps the body make vitamin D, a vitamin that many of us do not get enough of. Getting enough vitamin D has many advantages. “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.

Additionally, vitamin D may reduce aches and pain in your body. An article published in American Family Physician reported on a link between back and bone pain and muscle aches stemming from 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:

Protect Your Hair

Sun protection factor, also known as SPF, isn’t just for your skin. In fact, SPF-infused products defend the scalp and hair against harmful rays, too. “Overexposure to the sun will cause your hair to be dry to the point of breaking,” says Mark Garrison, owner of his hair salon in New York City.

Another perk: Hair products with SPF prevent fading, whether your hair color is natural or from a bottle.

Try these: Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil ($26), a mist with wintergreen and cinnamon bark oils that protect locks for 16 hours; and Philip Kingsley Swimcap ($34), which seals hair from the assaults of salt, chlorine and sun.

Protect Your Mouth

The skin on your lips is thinner, making it more vulnerable to the sun than the rest of your body. Additionally, sun exposure destroys collagen, causing your lips to become thinner over time. A recent study found than less than 25 percent of Americans use some sort of lip protection. Now that you know how important it is, protect your lips with an SPF lip balm.

Try these: Shield lips and keep them hydrated with Burt’s Bees Res-Q Lip Balm SPF 15 ($15.99 for 4); and Sun Bum Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30 ($4), which is vegan, hypoallergenic and paraben free.

Protect Your Eyes

Over time, exposure to the sun’s rays can cause some serious damage to our eyes and the surrounding skin, even leading to vision loss and conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration or various cancers. UV-rated sunglasses or contact lenses can help ward off cataracts.

Try these: We love Selima Optiques Onassis sunglasses ($325; selimaoptique.com) and the Oasys line of contacts from Acuvue ($27.99; acuvue.com).

Protect Your Face

The skin on your face is sensitive, and overexposure to the sun can cause damage, including melanoma, the most common form of cancer for young adults, which can be deadly. Not to mention that excessive sun exposure will also bring out fine lines, wrinkles and brown spots. Choosing the right facial products and investing in a good sun hat will help keep your face protected this summer.

Try these: Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 ($8), a fast-absorbing lotion that is sweat- and water-resistant, and also nourishes your skin.

For women: Top off the sunscreen with makeup that contains SPF, such as Pur Minerals 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup Foundation with SPF 15 ($26); and a sun hat ($20).

For men: A sun hat ($14) is a great way to shield your face from the sun’s rays.

Protect 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 using 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,” Fields explains. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours and use a higher SPF such as 40 or 50 when you’ll be outside for longer periods.

Try these: We like Ocean Potion’s Broad Spectrum Sunblock SPF 50 ($15). It gives half the daily recommended allowance of vitamin D3 with every slather.

Buy 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 ray: 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. (Side note: Don’t use a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide on your pets).

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.

We hope you embrace these tips for staying sun safe for a fun and enjoyable summer. Please comment below if you have any additional tips or tricks.

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