SUN-PROOF YOUR SKIN

Ex­pert ad­vice on safe­guard­ing your skin from harm­ful ul­tra­vi­o­let rays.

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This is a good news-bad news sce­nario: Nearly half of women wear sun­screen daily on their face, and more than a third reg­u­larly use it on other ex­posed ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 sur­vey of over 4,000 peo­ple pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the

Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Der­ma­tol­ogy. And those num­bers are on the rise among ac­tive young women.

Ev­i­dence is clear that a broad-spec­trum sun­screen, which fends off UVA and UVB rays, pre­vents wrin­kles and helps re­duce the in­ci­dence of skin can­cer – 90 per cent of which is UV ray-re­lated. Even the in­ci­dence of melanoma, the most deadly type of skin can­cer, drops as a di­rect re­sult of reg­u­lar sun­screen use.

De­spite this, skin can­cer num­bers in peo­ple of all ages are go­ing up, and melanoma is in­creas­ing faster in fe­males ages 15 to 29 than in males in that same age group. In fact, an es­ti­mated 34,940 new cases of in­va­sive melanoma in all women will be di­ag­nosed in the US in 2017, ac­cord­ing to the Skin Can­cer Foun­da­tion. The uptick is due in part to more aware­ness, ex­perts say. Peo­ple to­day know the warn­ing signs of skin can­cer, so they are more likely to visit a der­ma­tol­o­gist, which leads to an in­crease in di­ag­noses.

This is, of course, what should be hap­pen­ing since “early treat­ment leads to in­creased sur­vival,” says Dr Hooman Kho­rasani, chief of the di­vi­sion of der­ma­to­logic and cos­metic surgery at the Ic­ahn School of Medicine at Mount Si­nai Med­i­cal Cen­ter in New York City. But other fac­tors are at play that most di­rectly af­fect out­doorsy women. For starters, a spike in travel may be partly to blame for the in­crease in can­cer, Dr Kho­rasani says.

To­day, air travel is cheaper and more avail­able than ever, so peo­ple fly to ar­eas where they can be out­doors all year round, swim­ming, hik­ing, bik­ing, and marathon­ing. Plus, the thin­ning ozone layer is mak­ing the sun’s ef­fects stronger, and although we think we’re be­ing dili­gent about wear­ing sun­screen cor­rectly, it turns out we likely aren’t. But this is no rea­son to stop ex­er­cis­ing out­doors: You just need to safe­guard your skin with these ex­pert-en­dorsed ideas.

Em­brace the big 3-0

You’ve likely heard that SPF15 is the magic num­ber, which is fine for brief walk­ing-around cov­er­age. Oth­er­wise, if you’re go­ing to be out­side for more than an hour, you need an SPF30 or higher; SPF15 blocks 93 per cent of the sun’s rays, whereas SPF30 blocks 97 per cent, says Dr Steven Wang, the di­rec­tor of der­ma­to­logic surgery and der­ma­tol­ogy at Memo­rial Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter in Bask­ing Ridge, New Jer­sey.

“That may not sound like much of a dif­fer­ence, but when you fo­cus on the per­cent­age of rays that are still get­ting through – 7 per cent ver­sus 3 per cent – you will see that SPF30 is more than twice as ef­fec­tive, and that adds up,” he says. The sec­ond rea­son for a higher SPF: “Peo­ple don’t ap­ply enough sun­screen. A higher SPF helps com­pen­sate for that,” says Dr Elizabeth Hale, a der­ma­tol­o­gist and se­nior vice pres­i­dent of the Skin Can­cer Foun­da­tion in the US.

Dou­ble up

To get the promised SPF of any prod­uct, you need to ap­ply a full shot-glass amount (30ml) of sun­screen to your body when you’re in a bathing suit. Of course, most peo­ple don’t have a shot glass around when they’re ap­ply­ing sun­screen, so Dr Hale says that an equally ef­fec­tive, if less sci­en­tific, ap­proach to get­ting suf­fi­cient cov­er­age is to spread two coats onto all ex­posed parts. If you’re us­ing a spray, be sure you can see an even sheen on your skin.

Be se­lec­tive

Not all sun­screens live up to their SPF claims, even when ap­plied ap­pro­pri­ately. Last year, Con­sumer Re­ports, an in­de­pen­dent, US-based, non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, tested more than 60 prod­ucts with SPF30 or higher, and found that 43 per cent did not meet the SPF stated on the bot­tle; a few prod­ucts fell so short, they didn’t even hit SPF15. The worst of­fend­ers were the min­eral sun­blocks with zinc ox­ide, ti­ta­nium ox­ide, or both.

On the other hand, 80 per cent of the chem­i­cal sun­screens (UV fil­ters like oxy­ben­zone and avoben­zone) with an SPF40 or higher were A-OK.

You can ab­so­lutely spend your days play­ing in the sun and avoid skin dam­age. It just takes a few smart moves to cover all your bases.

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