Some basic sunscreen facts and smart ways to keep your skin summertime-healthy!

The sun is warm, bright, and beautiful. No argument there! But, basking in its brilliance means absolutely (positively!) getting our sunscreen on. Gone are the days of coating ourselves with baby oil and baking skin to a crisp. The sun’s ultraviolet rays don’t mess around. They can damage skin in as little as 15 minutes, and one in five Americans will eventually develop skin cancer. No bueno.

Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. Every sunscreen is assigned an SPF (sunscreen protection factor) which tells us how well they block both kinds of UV rays:

UVA rays, which penetrate into the deepest layer of the skin. They cause trouble in the form of wrinkling, premature aging, and suppression of the immune system.
UVB rays, which burn top layers of the skin and contribute to skin cancer.

SPF numbers tell us how well a sunscreen will filter out UV rays. An SPF 15 filters about 93 percent of UV rays, and an SPF 50 filters out about 98 percent. There is little to be gained from using an SPF higher than 50, though. Sadly, no sunscreen protects our skin completely.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests picking a sunscreen that 1) offers “broad spectrum” protection that filters both UVA and UVB rays, 2) has a rating of SPF 30 or higher, and 3) is water resistant.

Whatever brand you choose, be sure to reapply every two hours as long as you’re in the sun. Your skin will thank you (plus you’ll smell like summer!).

On all-day outings, or whenever time in the sun will be excessive, use your smarts and give that sunscreen an extra boost:

Seek shade. Shade is less mean than the sun (but remember, you still need sunscreen).

Wear shades. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also help shield you from evil wrinkles around the eyes.

Choose the right threads. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide great UV protection. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric are best.

Put a lid on it. Wear a hat with a brim all the way around to shade your face, ears, and the back of your neck. The tighter the weave (think canvas), the better the protection.

So, grab your favorite sunscreen, apply it carefully (remembering lips and ears), and take on summer with sun-kissed confidence!

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