Boost Your Sun Safety Savvy
Skin Cancer Myths and Facts 1-4Myth: Self-tanner helps shield my skin from the sun.
Truth: Self-tanners do nothing more than stain the skin's top layer a bronze hue. In fact, a German study showed that self-tanners increase sun damage. If you expose yourself to the rays an hour or so after applying tanner, your skin may produce 180 percent more free radicals (unstable molecules that damage cells, potentially leading to skin cancer) than it would have had you not used the product, the study showed. This effect gradually lessens, so self-tan before bed. When you head out in the sun the next day and every day, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen, like Banana Boat Sport Performance Lotion SPF 100 ($12.99, drugstores).Myth: I shouldn't put sunscreen too close to my eyes.
Truth: Despite the small surface area involved, 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers appear on eyelids. While most of these cancers are of the less deadly varieties (squamous and basal cell carcinomas), they're still a concern. "They can grow large and be very destructive," says Jordana Gilman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. If the thought of rubbing SPF on your lids makes your eyes water, try one of the specially formulated products for sensitive skin, such as Coppertone Sensitive Skin Faces Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 for Faces ($7.99, drugstores). Also look for sunglasses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection.Myth: Sunscreens make me sweat more, especially when I work out.
Truth: Actually, researchers from Oregon State University in Corvallis found that SPF temporarily cooled their subjects' skin as they exercised. "The sun's rays are intercepted by the sunscreen's chemicals, and instead of penetrating the skin, they undergo a chemical reaction, releasing heat back into the air," explains Ellen Marmur, MD, a dermatologic surgeon in New York City. "The effect is similar to when you stop running and feel chilly because of the sweat evaporating." If your sunscreen stifles you, try another consistency. Waterproof formulas are more adhesive, but they can feel tacky, Dr. Marmur says. As an alternative, try sunscreen sticks, which won't run when you do, thanks to their waxy formula. Or use a sheer sunscreen and reapply it after you sweat. A light one: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 45 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid for Face ($27.90, laroche-posay.us).Myth: I used to bake in the sun; the damage is already done.
Truth: Even if you have a "sunny" past, it's not too late to help curb your cancer risk. The notion that 80 percent of our total UV exposure occurs before age 18 was the result of misinterpreted research from the 1980s. A whopping 47 percent occurs between ages 19 and 40, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Not only can you help stop your accumulation today by generously applying sunblock, but you may also be able to help lessen the effects of past sun sins by doing so. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who used sunscreen daily saw a reduction in the number of new precancerous sun spots and a slowing of the development of preexisting ones. A broad-spectrum defender we like: Aveeno Positively Ageless Sunblock Lotion SPF 70 for Face ($12.99, drugstores).
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