Boost Your Sun Safety Savvy
Skin Cancer Myths 5-8Myth: I need to soak up a little sun or I'll be vitamin D deficient.
Truth: About a third of Americans worry that using sunblock daily will keep them from getting enough D, according to a Neutrogena survey. Sunscreen does cut the production of D by blocking the UV rays that skin cells use to synthesize it, but only a little sun exposure is needed to get the necessary amount of rays. After too much exposure, UV begins to break down the vitamin D created in the skin. "Too much UV is counterproductive to vitamin D synthesis," explains Linda K. Franks, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. The vitamin is crucial for bone strength and helps protect against certain cancers, diabetes, and other diseases, so doctors recommend 1,000 IU of it daily. Eat foods high in D, such as salmon, eggs, and fortified milk, and talk to your doc about taking a vitamin D3 supplement.Myth: A little sun binge while I'm on vacation isn't so bad.
Truth: When you're kayaking in the Caribbean, it's easy to forget to reapply sunscreen, but a tan makes a risky souvenir. Women who vacationed intermittently in hot locations had 74 percent more moles, a risk factor for melanoma, than those who did not, a study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found. You don't have to turn lobster red to be at risk; any color is a sign that UV rays have affected your skin's DNA. And what you think is a tan may not be one at all. "If you press your skin and rosiness appears, that's a burn, even though it may not hurt," says Jennifer Linder, MD, a dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. Stay safe by using an SPF wipe, such as Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Powerful Sun Protection SPF 30 Towelettes ($18 for 20; dgskincare.com), every two hours and after sweating, toweling off, or swimming.Myth: Spritzing on UV-protective hair mist guards my hair and scalp.
Truth: SPF hair sprays work in theory, but in practice it's difficult to coat every strand -- let alone all those square inches of scalp underneath -- with one. "Skin cancer can appear there and is often missed because it's hard to see beneath the hair," explains Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. While your tresses are a type of natural sun-protective barrier, they offer a less-than-foolproof shield. "Thick hair protects better than thinner hair, and darker hair protects better than lighter," Dr. Day says. Your part, of course, is almost always fully exposed. Swipe it with a sunscreen stick, like Clinique Sun SPF 45 Targeted Protection Stick ($17.50, clinique.com). To protect your whole head, wear a tightly woven hat with a brim that's at least three inches wide.Myth: A sunscreen with SPF 100 offers twice the protection of one with SPF 50.
Truth: The basic rules of math don't apply to SPF numbers. Here's the deal: If applied correctly, SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 stops about 97 percent and SPF 50 obstructs 98 percent. Go any higher and there's a barely detectable increase in the level of protection. (In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed new labeling rules that cap SPF at 50+.) While there's no harm in using SPF 100, don't let ultrahigh numbers fool you into thinking you can apply less of it. The benefit of SPF decreases exponentially when you don't use enough, so you may end up wearing the equivalent of SPF 4 despite your bottle's triple-digit claim. Always use a one-ounce shot glass's worth of sunscreen to cover your body and a nickel-size amount to protect your face. And reapply every one to two hours.
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