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5 facts you need to know about sun protection

by Nancy Maneely

sucscreen protectionHave you ever bought pricey sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor), thinking you’d be better protected against harmful skin-aging UVA and UVB rays? If so, you wasted your money.

The highest effective SPF is 50, according to sun protection experts. Theoretically, an SPF of 15 is enough to protect, but the experts recommend that we use a product with a minimum SPF of 30, because various factors (wind, sweat, water, careless application) effectively diminish the effectiveness of sunscreen overall.

So, those products with the reassuringly high numbers like 80 are simply not worth the investment – although, if they make you feel better, go for it!

The truth is that most of us use sunscreen, but few of us use it correctly. These are the 5 things you need to know for maximum protection against cancer-causing overexposure to sun:

  1. You need to use 1 ounce (about a shot glass full) of sunscreen, applied liberally all over exposed areas, including the backs of hands and insteps of your feet. Pay special attention if you plan to the left side of your upper body and face if you plan to drive for long periods.
  2. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness fairly quickly, so you must reapply it every 2-4 hours (more frequently if you swim or sweat a lot). This is where most of us fall short. Don’t assume because your product says “water resistant” that you can safely ignore this rule.
  3. Wear a hat AND sunglasses. Many skin cancers occur on the scalp. And remember that what can damage skin can damage eyes and impair vision down the road.
  4. Clothing does offer some protection, but it’s not enough. It does, however, offer an extra layer of protection in addition to sunscreen, and is a good idea to wear long sleeves if you plan to be out in direct sunlight for hours.
  5. For extra protection, supplement your diet with colorful veggies and fruits. Certain nutrients, especially phytochemicals, can help the skin to ward off sun damage. Lycopene (think tomatoes) is believed to be especially effective, as well as alpha- and beta-carotenoids (orange and yellow foods).

What’s your best sun protection strategy?

Source: Prevention magazine

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