Remember back in the day when all anyone thought about when shopping for sunscreen was the SPF number on the bottle? Today, we’re bombarded with so much information – and even more options – that a person could break out in hives from the sheer stress of sorting through it all. Even more alarming is that despite increased awareness the number of melanoma cases has been rising. According to the American Cancer Society there were about 68,000 new cases of melanoma last year in the United States, up from 48,000 cases in 2000. Former Chair of the Institute for Melanoma and Skin Cancer Research Dr. Robert Friedman says the key to being properly shielded is to look for products that provide “broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.”
SPF, in fact, refers only to protection from UVB rays (i.e. the ones that cause skin to burn). An SPF of 30 protects against approximately 97% of the sun’s UVB rays; an SPF of 50 protects against 98% of them, so in most circumstances, “an SPF of 30 is quite adequate, as long as it’s put on correctly and re-applied,” notes Dr. Friedman. A few sunscreen labels, like StriVectin-SH Age Protect SPF 30/PA+++, also specify a “PA” ranking, which refers to the amount of protection the sunscreen offers from UVA rays (i.e. the ones that cause long-term skin damage like wrinkles). PA rankings are listed as PA+, PA++ or PA+++, with the more plus symbols offering more protection.
Among the best new sun-protecting products on the market is MDSolarSciences’ SPF 40 Mineral Screen Lotion. Great for the body, it was developed by Dr. Friedman and is non-greasy, sinks into skin almost immediately, and lacks that chalkiness often associated with sunscreen. According to Dr. Friedman, whether you opt for a spray, a lotion, a gel, or a stick there’s no difference in terms of efficacy, so go with what you’re most likely to reapply every two hours.
UVA rays can pass through clothes, so invest in a few pieces of lightweight clothing specifically made with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). Mott 50 has some particularly chic options including a line of Hamptons-ready tunics, each of which boasts UPF 50, meaning only one fiftieth of the sun’s UVA rays can pass through it (as opposed to a regular tee which has a UPF of 5).
Get the kids on board by lathering them in Sunbow. Designed with children in mind, each of the lotions and sprays in the new sunscreen range goes on in color (either yellow with SpongeBob packaging or pink for Dora the Explorer), without staining clothes.
It’s also important to remember not to forget to protect lips, hands and ears as they’re common areas for skin cancer. To that end, Elizabeth Arden has come out with Eight Hour Cream Targeted Sun Defense Stick SPF 50 Sunscreen PA+++.
For Hamptonites fond of outdoor running, Coola’s Mineral Sport SPF 30+ Sunblock Citrus Mimosa is an ideal choice. Wax affords maximum water resistance and this product blends organic beeswax, candelilla wax and carnauba, while natural phyto-protectors, including plankton, enhance SPF protection.
If you’re looking to experiment with a variety of brands and products however, it’s hard to top Sephora’s Sun Safety Kit. Every year the retailer comes out with a kit that contains 12 different SPF products in a handy tote for just $25. And, if you’re an iPhone user, you can now download a new application called “My UV Check!” Part of La Roche-Posay’s Save Our Skin initiative, the app provides an index for the day’s UVA and UVB exposure in the user’s location, while educating users and alerting them to the dangers of UVA and UVB exposure. [/expand]