Friday, August 3, 2012

I've Got 99 Problems, But Skin Cancer Ain't One

If you're like me, you're sick.  Probably with a few things.  So why add another illness to the pile that, unlike most of this mess, is actually preventable?  Wear sunscreen every day.

If you take nothing else from me ever again, take that. I'll say it again. Wear sunscreen every day. If not for preventing skin cancer, do it for vanity. Eighty five percent of aging is caused by UV damage. And all the beauty advice in the world isn't going to help you if you look like Tan Mom.

But where to begin?  You go to the drugstore and there are dozens of brands and formulas. SPF, broad spectrum, what does it all mean?  That's where I come in.

SPF:  Sun Protection Factor.  The only thing you need to know about this is you need at least 15, preferably 30, and anything above 50 is really only necessary for the Irish and other extra pasty people (like myself).

Broad Spectrum:  This means it blocks UVA and UVB rays.  This is important because both cause skin cancer and skin aging.  Almost all sun screen is broad spectrum now, but check your labels to be sure.

Ingredients:  Some sunscreens stand up to light better than others, so make sure to look for ones with avobenzone, Helioplex or Mexoryl SX.  If you have allergies or sensitivities to chemical sunscreens, you can always go with physical sunscreens like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. 

For more information on the technicalities of sunscreen, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.

I've done all the hard work for you though and I am going to make this really easy. Buy Neutrogena.  It is that simple.  For your face, I like either the Healthy Defense Moisturizer or Ultra Sheer Liquid Sun Block . Both go on flawlessly under makeup.  For your body, any one they make will do.  Right now I'm using Wet Skin Sun Screen, because it goes on clear so it doesn't smudge my clothes.  Be warned, this is NOT for migraineurs who have problems with scent triggers, because the smell is obnoxious.

If you want a physical sunscreen, you can check out Neutrogena's Baby Sun Screen line.  Try this line if you have sensitive skin, or if regular sunscreens tend to burn you around the eyes.

Sadly, the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid makes me break out, so I have to use a pricier option for my face.  La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sun Screen Fluid is about three times as expensive as the Neutrogena, but it is also, I think, a better face sunscreen.  It is up to you whether it is worth the extra cost.  Personally, I think the La Roche-Posay is better, but maybe not $18 better.  If your skin doesn't have a problem with the Neutrogena, I'd probably stick with that one.

And the last thing is, make sure you are putting on enough.  A teaspoon for your face and a shot glass for your body (the latter is presuming a swimsuit).  Make sure you reapply if you are out for more than a few hours.

And if you are out in the sun for more than a few hours without getting horribly sick, what's your secret?