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Protect Your Skin

According to a recent article published in Annals of Internal Medicine, daily use of sunscreen significantly slows the aging of skin. Australian researchers found applying a heavy coat of broad-spectrum sunscreen every day resulted in less wrinkling.

We’ve known the damage sun can cause the skin for some time. We also know the risk of cancer increases with unprotected exposure, and yet, we aren’t very good at making the use of sunscreen part of our daily routine. Some of this may be due to not understanding the differences between sunscreen and suntan lotions and terms such as water-resistant and broad-spectrum sunscreens.

Suntan lotions and oils are typically products with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of less than 15. These products are no longer recommended.

The preferred product is a sunscreen with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of at least 15 to 30. Products with an SPF higher than 30 are not believed to be much more effective. People with sensitive skin may also look for sunscreens that are hypoallergenic and fragrance free.

Broad-spectrum is a term regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. It refers to products that contain UVA and UVB protection.

No product can honestly claim to be water or sweat proof. The term water-resistant may be used if the product can be effective for at least 40 minutes after swimming.

Only broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer or prevent early skin aging. If the SPF is from 2-15 it can only advertise protection from sunburn.

The Mayo Clinic recommends applying a generous amount of sunscreen to dry skin 30 minutes before going outside. Be sure to cover all exposed areas of skin with sunscreen including your head, if your hair is thin. Sunscreen needs to be applied at least every two hours and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. And keep in mind that you can burn even on a cloudy day since UV light passes through clouds.

We need our skin for a life-time. It makes sense to take the time to pick up that sunscreen with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of at least 15 to 30 today and use it faithfully.

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©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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