Memorial Day is quickly approaching and that means one thing - sun, sun, and more sun! May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and here at Good Housekeeping Research Institute we feel it is our duty to arm you with the best advice when it comes to making decisions regarding your health and safety.
We had a very special visitor at the Institute last week, Dr. Steven Wang of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. His advice for photoprotection is to stay out of the sun altogether - but that isn't exactly practical or a very fun way to spend your summer. What he suggests you can do is cover yourself by wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen.
Here's What You Need to Know About...
Sun Dangers: It is important to remember that sun-protection is not just about anti-aging. Harmful sun rays reach everyone. In fact, nearly twice as many men as women die of skin cancer each year. There is also rapid growth among white women ages 15 to 34, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. Most people do not apply an adequate amount of sunscreen, and it is estimated that the effective SPF value of most sunscreens on the market is 1/3 of what the label says.
Sunscreen: Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. There are two types of ultraviolet rays that reach Earth's surface, UVA and UVB. The energetic UVB rays are what cause sunburns. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are associated with wrinkling, sagging, and other effects of photoaging. SPF indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long it would take without the product. For example, using an SPF 15 means it will take 15 times longer for your skin to redden than without the sunscreen. Many sunscreens on the market have labels claiming UVA ray protection; however, the actual amount of UVA ray protection is difficult to assess due to the current labeling. There is a long-overdue labeling system under consideration by the FDA. A UVA star rating would be displayed near the SPF rating on sunscreen labels. One star will represent low UVA protection and four stars will represent the highest. Any product that does not rate at least one star will be labeled "no UVA protection."
Sunglasses: A good pair of shades should be constructed of lenses that block all the harmful UV rays without interfering with the transmission of light. In addition to the properties of the lenses, the shape of the frames and the coverage they offer are important. Most damage to the eye is caused by scattered and reflected light from the sides so the perfect design will wrap closely around the eye. To help you find a good pair, this spring we're introducing our own line of Good Housekeeping sunglasses. Most of the styles in the collection fit over prescription sunglasses. Naturally, they're reasonably priced ($19.99-$29.99) and are available at the stores where you shop: nationally in CVS and select Walgreens, Duane Reade, and Rite Aid stores. Learn more here.
Clothing: A few manufacturers make excellent lightweight, breathable products that are UPF protectant. What does UPF mean? It's a calculated number than shows how much UV is moving through the garment. For more details, see our story Don't Get Burned: UV Clothes.
Don't want to buy a special garment? Here's tips for getting better UV protection:
- Buy synthetics: Nylon and polyester can be woven very tightly, which means they can deflect the sun's rays better.
- Purchase darker colors: They also deflect the sun's rays.
- Want to stay with natural fibers like cotton and linen? Try RIT Sun Guard, which washes in UV protection temporarily - it provides protection until the 5th washing. It can take a white cotton T-shirt from a UPF of 5 to a UPF of 30.
Don't forget the back of the neck too! Use a hat like the one we recommend in our Best of Summer Picks.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.