Summer may be the one time of year when most people are likely to wear sunscreen every day. But even that isn’t enough, unless you’re wearing the right kind. “If it doesn’t say ‘broad spectrum,’ don’t buy it,” says San Francisco dermatologist Kathleen Welsh; natural sunscreens, which contain titanium and zinc oxide, qualify because they ensure both UVA and UVB protection. Happily, you no longer have to get superior sun protection by looking like a lifeguard; today’s versions are more refined than they used to be so they’re absorbed into your skin. (No more white noses!)
Other ways to save your skin:
- Don’t depend on moisturizers and makeup that contain SPF. “You’d have to cake it on to get the protection they claim,” says Welsh, “and they tend to rub off more easily than pure sunscreen.”
- Higher is better. “SPF 15 is adequate,” says Welch, “but if you’re sensitive to the sun or worried about aging, then definitely go higher.” She recommends an SPF of 30 or higher for everyday use.
- Protect the skin under your clothes. Hold up your clothing to the sun; if light shines through, you know radiation will, too. So use sunscreen beneath lightweight clothing.
- Don’t forget the hot spots. Carcinomas commonly appear on the tip of the nose, tops of the ears, back of the neck, and V-section of the neck—all places that are easy to skip when applying sunscreen.
- Protect yourself even in the shade. You can still get harmful sun exposure in the shade, particularly if you’re near a pool. Concrete also reflects light.
- Remember to reapply. “Sunscreen protection washes off,” says David Voron, a dermatologist at USC School of Medicine in Los Angeles, though more slowly if it’s waterproof. He recommends rubbing on more sunscreen every two hours, just to be safe.
In the effort to block the sun’s ravages, lips often get overlooked. And the fact that so many lipsticks and balms still don’t contain sun protection doesn’t make it any easier. But ultraviolet light can be damaging to lips, which are thin to begin with and lack the ability to produce melanin, the tanning pigment that protects skin, says Mary Lupo, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.
So get in the habit of packing a natural lip balm that also offers sun protection. Some good ones:
- Alba Botanical Lipcare SPF 18
- MD Formulations Lip Balm SPF 20
- Jane Iredale Lip Drink SPF 15.
Shield Your Eyes
Invest in good sunglasses. Without consistent sun protection, your eyes are vulnerable to corneal damage and cataracts. Buy shades labeled with the American Optometric Association Seal of Acceptance, which guarantees nearly 100 percent UV protection. “Over-the-counter sunglasses you get at low-cost retail stores are less likely to give you the protection you’re looking for,” says Timothy Wingert, a professor at University of Missouri St. Louis College of Optometry. Ask for UV coating for prescription eyewear, too—for clear as well as for tinted lenses. And think of as many excuses as possible to wear a broad-brimmed hat.
The Sunless Tan
For the sun-kissed look without the sun damage, try one of the new self-tanning creams, which safely darken your skin into a believable tan. We like Clarins Self-Tanning Milk, Clinique Body Quick Bronze Tinted Self-Tanner, Annemarie Borlind Sunless Bronze, Aveda Sun Source, Origins The Great Pretender Shimmery Self-Tanner for Body, and Zia Solar Intelligents Self-Tanning Creme.
A Hairy Time for Hair
Summer can be hell on hair. Chlorine, salt water, wind, and sun—it doesn’t get any worse than this, especially if you color your hair. To help seal your strands against at least some of the damage, choose an SPF-enriched shampoo and conditioner. “Protect your hair the same way you do your skin,” says Michael Bernstein, a trichologist, or hair and scalp expert, in Los Angeles. “Along with SPF in your hair products, the best protection from the sun is a hat or a head scarf.”
Other ways to save your hair:
- Massage a small amount of conditioner into your hair before heading to the beach or jumping into the pool; leaving it in will help protect it from sun, salt water, and chlorine. Even just wetting your hair with plain water before hitting the pool can keep it from soaking up too much chlorine. And whenever possible, wear a bathing cap.
- Here’s more on fighting chlorine—and green-tinged tresses. Use a specially formulated shampoo, like Aubrey Organics Swimmers Shampoo. Or one that contains tea tree oil, a powerful cleanser, like Desert Essence’s Daily Replenishing Tea Tree Shampoo. After a day at the pool, you can also wash in this home brew recommended by Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty for All Seasons: Mix 2 tablespoons
baking soda, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon mild shampoo, such as baby or chamomile shampoo. Wet hair and massage mixture well into hair, cover with a shower cap for 30 minutes, then rinse and shampoo.
- Treat dry hair to moisturizing products. Several natural options are on the shelves. We like Anne-marie Borlind’s Ceramide Repair Shampoo and Cream Rinse, but anything that contains panthenol, a B vitamin, can help.