Some new products are out claiming to pair with sunscreen to combat burns and long-term sun damage. Some are innovative. Others are goofy. But beware: Some may not be all they’re cracked up to be.
Take for instance Heliocare, the “sunscreen in a pill.” This European product promises to fight UV-rays from the inside out but is just a high dose of antioxidants and should never replace sunscreen.
LEARN MOREThe 2009 Sunscreen Guide from Environmental Working Group rates hundreds of products with sunscreens for UVA and UVB protection, safety of ingredients, and product stability. It also has top 10 lists of the best sunscreens -- as well as the best moisturizers and lip balms with SPF.
How to avoid heat illnesses.
Why your kids should wear sunglasses.
Get antioxidants the old-fashioned way – from fruits and vegetables, says Daniel Aires, director of dermatology at the University of Kansas Medical School. And take vitamin D, which provides crucial protection against skin cancer and other health ailments. Aires advises taking at least 1,000 units of vitamin D3 each day – the equivalent of a few minutes in the sun.
No matter how you do it, you’ve got to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and a dollop of sunscreen just isn’t enough to combat powerful ultraviolet rays.
“A little light layer of sunscreen is a lot less effective than people think,” Aires says. “If people put on a light layer of SPF 15, they’re really getting SPF 2 or 5.”
That goes for those handy new continuous-spray products, too. Wait for the first application to dry, Aires says, and do it all over.
Beyond sunscreen, eating healthy and taking vitamin D, there are plenty of other tricks to try. Here's a look at some of them:
LEARN THE ALPHABET SOUP
• Ultraviolet-B (UVB): These short-wave solar rays are the most likely to cause bad sunburns and skin cancers.
• Ultraviolet-A (UVA): Longer-wave rays penetrate the skin farther than UVB and lead to wrinkles and leathering skin. They can contribute to skin cancers.
• Sun Protection Factor (SPF): A measurement of how much coverage a sunscreen provides. SPF ratings consider only UVB rays. The higher the number, the better, but the sunscreen is effective only when reapplied every two hours. It’s best to slather on the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before heading outside. Adults should apply at least an ounce (think shot glass) each time.
• Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF): A more accurate measurement than SPF because it takes into account UVA and UVB rays. This rating is designated for fabric and sun-protective clothing. A garment with a UPF 30 rating blocks 96 percent of harmful rays. Remember, even if you don’t burn, you still may get sun damage.
Ultraviolet rays can penetrate clothing and towels, so covering up at the pool may not be enough. Sun-protective clothing, while not as fashionable as teeny-weeny bikinis, is a shield for people with extremely fair skin or sun allergies.
“If more people in their 20s start wearing sun-protective clothing, then it will be seen as cool and hip,” says dermatologist Daniel Aires.
Brands such as Coolibar and Solumbra offer lightweight and water-resistant UPF 50 swim shirts, tights and skirts.
Solumbra even sells neck-to-ankle swimsuits for toddlers. Both also sell sun-resistant loungewear and everyday clothing.
Some people are reluctant to trade fashion for function, and baseball caps do not provide adequate coverage. Large hats "look a little goofy, but not as goofy as zinc oxide,” says dermatologist Daniel Aires, who recommends hats to all of his patients. We tried out Wallaroo hats, which protect the face and neck. They’re adjustable, crushable and washable, and some are made with UPF protection, blocking out 97.5 percent of the sun’s UV rays. They come in tons of styles and colors.
• Bald Guyz Sunscreen. Created by “the head bald guy,” founder Howard Brauner, this quick-drying, sweat-resistant gel sunscreen was made just for bald heads, which need protection year-round. SPF 30, $9.99, www.baldguyz.com
• UVSunSense Band. This little plastic strip changes color to tell you when to reapply sunscreen and when to get out of the sun. While helpful, the bracelets don’t know whether you are fair-skinned or darker-skinned, so reapply every two hours to be safe. 7-pack for about $6, www.Amazon.com.
• SunGuard Laundry Aid. If you don’t feel like springing for a closet of sun-protective clothing, you can make your own. Add a dose of SunGuard to the laundry, and your clothes will come out with a UPF 30 that lasts up to 20 washes. Three boxes for $5.97, www.sunguardsunprotection.com
TOO LATE? HOW TO TREAT SUNBURN
• Stay out of the sun until you’re healed.
• Drink lots of water and eat antioxidant-rich foods, such as blueberries and green tea.
• Generously apply aloe or lotion to keep the area moisturized and to prevent peeling. Try Body Drench Skin Therapy, a cool menthol, hydrating gel with vitamins A and E ($18, available at beauty supply stores and salons).
• Lay a cool compress or cloth on the burned skin and avoid hot showers.
• Do not pick or pop blisters.
• Take aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation.