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04-13-09 | Posted by


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THE NEW SPF

Circa 1920 Coco Chanel made tanning a trend when she was seen leaving Duke Wellington’s yacht with a deep tan after cruising from Paris to Cannes. Chanel took too much sun by accident, but the press assumed that she was making a fashion statement. Women in Europe and America followed her lead and the tan came into vogue. Little did they know the perils of sunning, wrinkles and skin cancer.

Today, there are no valid excuses for disregarding common wisdom and shamelessly taking sun unless you have a death wish. Increasing awareness of the potential dangers of overexposure to UV rays has been heightened by consumer awareness campaigns. The Skin Cancer Foundation (www.skincancer.org) grants its prized International Seal of Recommendation to products that meet their riteria for effective UV sun protection products. Among the products approved by them is Clinique Super City Block Oil Free Daily Face Protector SPF 25.

Sun care seem to be more popular among women than men, although men tend to spend more time outside exposed to UV rays.  Most of us get the concept that sunscreen is a must-have. However, few realize the myriad factors that influence the actual effectiveness of sunscreens.  Most of us don’t apply nearly enough for it to actually work. We also don’t put it on often enough. It has been suggested that a second sunscreen application should be applied within 30 minutes of the first one to make up for areas you may have missed on the first try. Reapplication is considered essential, especially after sweating, swimming or toweling off.

Women tend to spend more on sun care for the face than for the body. If you’re reluctant to indulge because of the high price of your chosen sun protection, there are good brands available for the price of a latte. Your best bet is to keep one handy; toss one into your handbag, golf cart, beach bag, and stock a few extras for your boat and villa for guests. If you’ve run out of your favorite brand and find yourself in desperate need, borrow your kid’s sunscreen. Products made for babies and children usually offer total protection.

High protection used to mean greasy creams that clogged pores, caused breakouts and left a pasty residue, but the technology has improved considerably. When faced with a row of orange and yellow tubes and sprays before a jaunt to St Barths. the $64,000 question  is how much SPF is really enough? An SPF 6 is hardly worth the ink used to print it on the bottle. Contrary to popular belief, layering an SPF 10 over an SPF 6 does not give you SPF16 either.  An SPF only measures the amount of time it will take for you to get red. An SPF 15 is great for daily sun exposure, while an SPF 30 is better for anything outside. The fairer your skin, or the more time you spend outside, the higher SPF you need. But don’t be fooled into a false sense of security with a higher SPF and reapply every two hours for maximum protection.

This is a message that is hard to get across when sun care is often lumped in with other travel accessories such as throwaway cameras and insect repellant, as if the sun only shines on holiday. I was standing on line at the Boots on Brompton Road in London with a basket of emergency toiletries, and noticed that the woman in front of me was very lined from years of bronzing . They were having a “3 for 2” special and she was clutching three Soltan SPF 8.  The young girl at the cash register explained that she didn’t have to take three of the same products to get the third one for free. She replied, “Oh, so do you have any with an SPF 4?”  Talk about missing the point…

Although applying heavy duty sunscreen and covering up with a tee shirt seems simple enough, sun protection doesn’t begin and end by piling on creams. Covering up by wearing clothes should be part of the plan, and a gauzy little tank top won’t pass muster. There is an entire industry devoted to producing protectant garments from hats to trousers that are lightweight, comfy, and surprisingly chic. Fabrics that have UPF ratings provide excellent skin coverage. Coolibar (www.coolibar.com) labels their garments by how much protection they offer, i.e. “BLOCKS 98% UV – Excellent UV Protection – UPF 50+.” There are  other considerations such as less UV radiation passes through tightly woven or knitted fabrics. The smaller the spacing between the individual fiber strands, the higher protection you will get. Darker colors like black of the same fabric type will usually absorb UV rays more than lighter or pastel shades. In addition, many fabrics offer less UV rays protection when wet because UV rays passes through water better than through air. Most fabrics will get less protective as they age, so your old, faded polo shirts will be less effective than this season’s crisp Lacoste.  

Consider adding SunGuard® (www.sunguardsunprotection.com) to your laundry, which can transform your own clothes into a UPF of 30 with one cycle in your washing machine. The active ingredient in SunGuard® is TINOSORB® FD, one of the best UVA filters used in sunscreens. Your clothes will actually absorb UV light rather than allow it to pass through the fabric to your body.

When it comes to hats, the usual recommendation is a brim of at least three inches wide, especially good for protecting noses and ears which often get overlooked. Most traditional hats don’t provide much protection at all. Straw hats, Burberry visors, Texas size Stetsons, and baseball caps are not very useful. For a hat to be truly protective, especially on the water, it should be cool and durable so you’ll keep it on, and made of or lined with treated material.

The same rules apply when it comes to sunglasses. All sunglasses will filter ultraviolet rays to some degree, but the best protection can be found in glasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses with lens tints that are too light will not block glare. Fashionista tints of pink, blue, or purple may look good but they are poor light blockers. Lenses should be uniform, not streaked or with dark or light spots. For very bright conditions like running and sailing, darker shades are better than tinted ones. Wrap around frames with extra wide sides provide the best UV protection, and can also save you a fortune on Botox® by helping forestall crows feet.

Another way to get your daily dose of UV protection is in a pill. Heliocare® Oral (www.heliocare.co.nz) is a supplement containing antioxidants, green tea, beta-carotene, and a natural fern extract. Taken daily, it is touted to corral free radicals before they can wreak havoc on your cells to minimise the damage. This does not mean that taking one little capsule gives you the freedom to bake naked in the midday sun; rather it is an extra layer of protection for the fair or sun phobic.

UV rays are everywhere, even on a cloudy day in Nova Scotia. In fact, up to 80% of the sun’s rays can penetrate light clouds, mist, and fog. Water, sand, snow, and concrete can also reflect up to 80% of the sun’s damaging rays, which will make you look at boating, swimming, skiing, and even walking in a whole new light. UV levels are largely determined by latitude, cloud cover, time of year, and time of day, and they change every day. The closer you are to the equator, the higher the UVI (UV Index) will be. Thus, you are less likely to turn red in Northern England than you would in Southern France, but you can still get sun damage.  The UVI ranges from Low, which would be a 1-2, to Extreme, which is 11+. Generally, when the UVI forecast for the day is 3 to 7, you are instructed to seek shade during peak hours because sunburn is more likely and the risk of skin cancer increases. If it goes to 8 or higher, stay inside with the AC on maximum cool. 

Look for sunscreens that contain both UVA and UVB blockers. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin, resulting in skin cancer and photoaging. Two ingredients to look for are Mexoryl and Avobenzone (Parsol), which are both excellent UVA blockers. Wait a few minutes after applying sunscreen to apply foundation or other cosmetics to give your sunscreen time to soak in. Chemical sunscreens usually get absorbed better than physical sunscreens.  Inorganic sunscreens tend to be more opaque, which makes them less elegant to wear. DDF Daily Organic SPF 15  contains micronized zinc and nano titanium dioxide, which refract the sun’s rays without using any chemical absorption sunscreens, so it’s safe for even the most sensitive skin types and children. The addition of antioxidants serves to boost the SPF value.

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