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Monday, January 29, 2007

Sun Smart

Staying out of the sun altogether may see to be the only logical answer. But who wants to live like a hermit? The key is to enjoy the sun sensibly, finding a balance between sun protection and those great summer activities like beach volleyball and swimming.
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Sunscreens or sunblocks, which block the sun's harmful rays, are one of your best defenses against sun damage because they protect you without interfering with your comfort and activity levels.

The SPF number on a sunscreen shows the level of protection it gives. Sunscreens with a higher SPF number provide more defense against the sun's damaging UV rays.

Here are some tips to enjoy the great outdoors while protecting your skin and eyes from sun damage.

* Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 every day, even on cloudy days and when you don't plan on spending much time outdoors. Wearing sunscreen every day is essential because as much as 80% of sun exposure is incidental — the type you get from walking your dog or eating lunch outside. If you don't want to wear a pure sunscreen, try a moisturizer with sunscreen in it, but make sure you put on enough.
* Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Ideally, it should also be hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic so it doesn't cause a rash or clog your pores and give you acne.
* Apply sunscreen thickly and frequently. If you're not sure you're putting on enough, switch to one with a higher SPF. Regardless of the SPF, always reapply sunscreen after a couple of hours. Most broad-spectrum sunscreens are more effective at blocking UVB rays than UVA rays. So even if you don't get a sunburn, UVA rays could still be doing unseen damage to your skin.
* Reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours and after swimming or sweating. In the direct sun, wear a sunscreen with a higher SPF, like SPF 30. While playing sports, use sunscreen that's waterproof and sweatproof.
* Take frequent breaks. The sun's rays are strongest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. During those hours, take breaks to cool off indoors or in the shade for a while before heading out again.
* Wear a hat with a brim and sunglasses that provide almost 100% protection against ultraviolet radiation.
* You probably know that water is a major reflector of UV radiation — but so is snow. Snow skiing and other winter activities carry significant risk of sunburn, so always apply sunblock before hitting the slopes.
* Certain medications, such as antibiotics used to treat acne and birth control pills, can increase your sun sensitivity. Ask your doctor whether your medications might have this effect and what you should do.
* Avoid tanning "accelerators" or tanning pills that claim to speed up the body's production of melanin or darken the skin. There's no proof that they work and they aren't approved by government agencies for tanning purposes.

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