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You've heard it a million times: Sun exposure -- including tanning bed use -- causes wrinkles, sun spots, skin cancer and eye damage. However, protecting yourself from the sun isn't as easy as it sounds. Lots of products claim to provide sun protection, but as every savvy shopper knows, you can't believe everything you read. Get the facts on which products are worth the investment.
Sunscreen absorbs, scatters or reflects the sun's harmful UV rays, protecting your skin from damage. Women should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, according to Dr. Debra Jaliman, spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. She recommends using mineral powder sunscreen if you have oily skin. Splurging for an SPF higher than 30 isn't usually worth it though, according to Dr. Robert J. Friedman, a New York City-based dermatologic oncologist. He says sky-high SPFs are "mostly a marketing tool," although they are a good choice for people with very fair skin or a history of melanoma.
Makeup with SPF
Your makeup may have an SPF number on it, but don't be fooled; it's not a replacement for sunscreen. According to Dr. Friedman, many foundations and moisturizers that claim SPF protection only block UVB rays, which cause sunburns, but not UVA rays, which cause photo-aging and skin cancer. Dr. Jaliman notes that it's also easy to sweat off foundation in hot weather or while exercising, making it even less effective at protecting your skin.
Tired of slathering on sunscreen? SPF clothing is another option for protecting your skin. SPF clothing, such as the Solumbra and Coolibar clothing lines, provide an SPF up to 50, according to Dr. Jaliman. You can also create your own SPF clothing by washing your clothing with Rit Sun Guard Laundry Treatment UV Protectant, but keep in mind this product wears out with time. Don't count on normal clothes to protect your skin for long, especially if they're light-colored; the typical T-shirt has an SPF lower than 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More Ways to Protect Your Skin
Staying inside or in the shade during midday hours can help you avoid damaging UV rays. Wearing a hat in the sun, especially a wide-brimmed hat in a close-knit fabric, also keeps the sun off your face and neck. And don't forget your fave pair of shades, which help prevent cataracts and protect that extra-tender skin around your eyes.