Protecting Your Skin from the Sun is Scary Business

It doesn’t matter if you’re at the beach or walking around in New York City, you need to wear sunscreen now. We all hear about the dangers we face from the sun. Beauty magazines talk incessantly of the sun’s aging effects and medical experts urge us to be aware the sun’s effect on skin cancer. I love this video; it shows unprotected skin under UV light, and clearly shows the benefits sunscreen provides. You can tell by the reactions how startled the subjects are.

Applying too little sunscreen or reapplying it too infrequently diminishes protection and like most people, you’re probably using your sunscreen wrong. To make all this even more complicated, the chemicals in some sunscreens can be harmful to you!  The just released Environmental Working Group 2015 Guide To Sunscreens reports on sunscreen chemicals  that will make you study the label a bit closer. Conclusion?  Stay with mineral sunscreens that have a base of Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, or Avobenzone. Avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone, Octinoxate and Homosalate.

UVA and UVB Rays

Many sunscreens don’t provide adequate protection from UVA rays. Higher-energy UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburns and pre-cancerous DNA mutations, but UVA rays cause more subtle damage. They penetrate deeper into skin tissue and are most responsible for generating free radicals – energized molecules that are highly reactive and can damage DNA and skin cells (Marrot 2005), promote skin aging (Wlasckek 2001) and cause skin cancer. Make sure that you choose a sunscreen that protects against both types of rays.


SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures how long your skin will be protected from UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends an SPF of 30 or higher. But don’t be fooled by high SPF. High-SPF products tempt people to apply too little sunscreen and stay in the sun too long. The FDA has actually proposed prohibiting the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading.” Yikes! The EWG report touts European sunscreen over USA versions, so if you’re traveling abroad this summer, stock up over there!

Sunscreen for the face and neck:

For the body

  • Use the equivalent of 1 – 1.5 shot glasses to the exposed areas of the body  (Skin Cancer Foundation).

If you’re out in a sundress, not only should you slather sunscreen on the main parts of your face and body but also these easily forgotten areas: the tops of ears, lips, back of the neck and the hands. Guys, if it’s getting thin up top, be diligent in applying sunscreen to your head!

So, New Yorkers…


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