Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about protecting yourself from damaging rays, our knowledgeable Medical Esthetician Anne Connolly has uncovered some sneaky suncare truths.
Slathering on sunscreen is the best way to ward off evil rays, but please don't put blind faith in its efficacy.
Not all sunscreens are created equal in terms of preventing skin cancer and signs of aging. This means that choosing the right one is critical. *These fascinating facts and tips will help keep your skin healthy all year round.
1. SPF doesn't always block UVA rays
The magic number shown on the bottle refers only to a sunscreen's ability to block sunburn-inducing UVB rays, not to be confused with UVA rays, the ones that cause wrinkles and skin cancer (though excessive exposure to both rays can lead to skin cancer). The FDA is considering a set of guidelines that would use a four-star system to rate a sunscreen's effectiveness against UVA rays. In the meantime, check the ingredients on the bottle for titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. These ingredients are famous for their UVA blockage, and new formulas won't leave you with a Casper-like film on your face. Try one of the Elta MD sunscreens we carry. But be sure to choose one that is appropriate for your skin type. Click here to learn more our Elta MD products>
2. Meds can make you more vulnerable
Medications like tetracycline, diuretics, and painkillers such as Celebrex, Aleve, and ibuprofen up your chances of getting a burn, says Barbara Gilchrest, MD, professor and chair emeritus of the department of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine and chief emeritus of dermatology at Boston Medical Center. "They make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, specifically to UVA wavelengths, which means you need to be extra vigilant about sunscreen when you're taking them." Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays—like our Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen—to ward off sunburn and photo damage, which results from chronic exposure to UV rays.
3. Sunscreen expires
If you pull a half-empty, sand-caked tube of last summer's sunscreen out of your beach bag, check the expiration date before using it. Most sunscreens are designed with specially formulated stabilizers that protect its potency for up to 3 years, but that's assuming you didn't let it bake for days in your backyard. Leaving sunblock in intense heat or freezing cold temperatures for a prolonged amount of time may make it less effective. So store sunblock in a cool place, and while you're at the beach, keep it in the shade.
4. Certain foods can turbocharge your protection
One more good reason to load up on lycopene-rich fruits and veggies, such as watermelon, guava, pink grapefruit, and tomatoes: A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests the potent antioxidant lycopene acts as a sunscreen from within. Women whose diets included 16 milligrams of lycopene every day (the amount in about two cups of diced watermelon) for 12 weeks showed a reduction in the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays, including sunburns and cellular damage. Tomatoes are the richest source of the antioxidant, especially when cooked (heating tomatoes releases more of the lycopene). So dine on pasta with Biodynamic Passata sauce or snack seaside on zesty Organic Pickled Tomatoes. Of course, this doesn't mean you can skip the sunscreen. These foods help boost your SPF but don't replace it.
5. Soaking up vitamin D is no excuse for skipping block
**RDA levels for vitamin D are in the range of 1,000 IUs per day and can easily be obtained through the normal American diet with or without minimal sun exposure. People can obtain vitamin D even when using sunscreen. They also can get 400 IUs of vitamin D daily in a multivitamin. The sun is the only natural catalyst to produce vitamin D in the skin. However, people can get adequate amounts of the vitamin through means other than the sun. Our bodies can't differentiate between a vitamin D supplement and the sun's rays. Clearly, our patients will continue to go out in the sun. But they can minimize the damage by practicing common sense and taking care to protect their skin.
6. The SPF number doesn't mean much
Conventional wisdom suggests that SPF 30 will give you twice the protection of SPF 15, and SPF 100 will offer twice the coverage of SPF 50. If only. "The sky-high numbers are a marketing ploy," says Gilchrest. "People think they're doing themselves a favor by using high SPF, but the difference is incremental. SPF 15 filters out 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 30 protects against 97 percent; SPF 50, 98 percent; and SPF 100, 99 percent—and that's only if you apply enough of it."
In other words, our Blue Lizard SPF 30 is plenty of protection.
7. Makeup with SPF doesn't cut it
Some sun-protection products may leave skin surprisingly vulnerable - unless we take an extra step in defense. Makeup: "Foundation and powder, with the exception of mineral, zinc-based powder, are lighter in weight than sunscreen, so when they contain SPF, we simply don't put on enough to attain the level of protection their labels suggest," says Leslie Baumann, professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Cosmetic Center. To get the stated SPF, it would take seven times more foundation and 14 times more powder than women ordinarily use. According to a recent study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, most SPF-spiked beauty products skimp on the all-important UVA-blocking ingredients. Researchers analyzed 29 daily facial creams with an SPF of 15 to 50, and only six of them contained enough UVA-blocking ingredients to provide adequate UVA protection. So think of your moisturizer and makeup as just an extra layer of protection, and pair it with a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Some information provided by Rodales online.
Melvin L. Elson, MD, has carried out extensive research in the areas of aging, photoaging and the evaluation and treatment of related disorders, particularly in the areas of soft tissue augmentation and topical vitamins. He has taught and traveled extensively throughout the world, sharing his techniques in the use of soft tissue augmentation materials. He is a member the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the International Society for Dermatologic Surgery. He has authored more than 100 scientific papers and chapters and has written two books, a textbook on the aging face and a book for laymen on appearance. He is president and CEO of Global Cosmeceutical Innovations LLC in Nashville, Tenn. Disclosure: Dr. Elson indicates that he has no affiliations with any commercial entities, directly or indirectly referenced in this article.