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Sunscreens help consumers enjoy the sun safely.

Charla Krupp is beauty editor of Glamour magazine.

The whole point of summer is to enjoy the sun - not to hide from it. Although results of recent studies examining sunscreens and their ability to protect against skin cancer have been contradictory, a recent article in Glamour magazine states that using sunscreen absolutely helps, and people should always wear it, regardless of skin color. Sunscreens not only protect against sunburn but are a crucial weapon against skin cancer.

Now smart sun care is as easy and automatic as getting dressed in the morning, with a multitude of products offering hassle-free protection for all skin types. According to Glamour, research shows that sunscreens not only protect against sunburn but can also, over time, help prevent wrinkles, brown blotches, leatheriness and skin cancer with regular use. Glamour advises finding a formula that suits an individual's particular skin type and situation.

For oily, acne-prone skin, Glamour recommends choosing a formula labeled oil-free or noncomedogenic. Alcohol-based gel formulas are ideal. Sunscreen agents tend to be greasy, and the alcohol counteracts that.

For sensitive skin the most common cause of irritation may not be the sunscreen itself, but the lotion in which it is contained. Some sunscreen agents, notably oxybenzone, can irritate sensitive skin. The safest bets for sensitive skin are sunscreens with formulas that list zinc oxide or titanium oxide as active ingredients: those physical sunblocks, which reflect OVA rays rather than absorb them chemically, rarely cause irritation or allergic reactions.

For outdoor exercisers, sports formulas -- lightweight lotions designed to dry quickly and stay where one puts them -- and waterproof gels are best. Wax-based stick sunscreens are also good for spot coverage on the forehead and around the eyes, where it's most important for sunscreens to stay put.

For his hairy arms, legs and back, Glamour advises using one of the new transparent sprays instead of a lotion formula, which takes forever to apply and is embarrassingly visible. Sprays offer the most coverage with the least effort. Gel formulas also work well.

In addition, there are new ingredients that help protect against OVA rays, the longer, deep-penetrating rays that contribute to premature aging and skin cancer. Used for years in Europe, Avobenzone (a.k.a. Parsol 1789) is an excellent UVA blocker that has recently been introduced in the United States and is available in a variety of sunscreens now on the market.

Zinc oxide used to be the opaque "white stuff" THAT only lifeguards dared to wear, but in its new micronized form zinc oxide has become an ideal sunscreen, transparently blocking both OVA and UVB rays. It even has skin-soothing properties, making it perfect for daily use.

Dermatologists recommend a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 even for people with darker skin who don't burn easily, since the combination of ingredients that provides an SPF of 15 also offers OVA protection, which is important for all skin types. People who burn easily need an SPF of 15 for daily protection and an SPF of at least 30 for extended exposure (hiking, tennis, gardening). The fairest, most sunsensitive people need an SPF of 45 or 50 for any significant time in the summer sun.

The only good tan is a fake one. All self-tanners include dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which dyes the skin. But cosmetics companies continue to tinker with formulas in the quest for easier, quicker and better results.

Many self-tanners now contain sunscreen, giving two benefits for the price of one. Great idea -- but Glamour advises using additional sunscreen, choosing a high SPF (anything less than 15 won't give enough protection) and applying it in the morning as opposed to in the evening to avoid having the SPF protection rub off on the sheets.

The bottom line is that sunscreens are just one part of sun safety -- which also includes avoiding midday sun, seeking shade and covering up. Nevertheless, they are a major weapon against skin cancer.
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Author:Krupp, Charla
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Aug 10, 1998
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