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Good to Glow: Our Sun-Safety Skin Guide

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No More Excuses for Skipping Sunscreen

Your SPF Excuse: "My fair skin always burns, no matter what sunblock I use -- why bother?"

Fact: People with pale skin have the highest chance of developing all three types of skin cancer. And having a history of sunburns increases these already elevated odds. "Just one blistering burn doubles the risk of melanoma," says Lori Brightman, MD, a dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York.

Fix: Apply one ounce of sunscreen (about a palmful) to skin 30 minutes before heading outside. It takes that long for the active ingredients to kick in. Sky-high SPF levels (70! 80! 90!) are your best choice. "SPF measures the amount of time you should be able to stay in the sun without burning -- the higher the number, the longer skin should stay protected," says Kenneth Mark, MD, a clinical assistant professor in New York University's dermatology department. Reapply every two hours -- more frequently if you take a dip or sweat a lot.

Your SPF Excuse: "Sunscreen stings my eyes when I work out."

Fact: Perspiration from your sweat session allows UV rays to pass easily through the skin, causing it to burn more quickly, says Patricia Agin, PhD, a skincare researcher at the Coppertone Solar Research Center in Memphis. Some dermatologists believe that's a major reason marathoners have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

Fix: Take your workout indoors or try to schedule outside time at sunrise or sunset; the sun's rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunscreens labeled "100 percent waterproof" or "sweatproof" last about 90 minutes, unlike "water-resistant" kinds, which lose their potency after 40 minutes, Dr. Mark explains. Reapply every hour and a half -- or immediately after a swim or workout. Use an extra coat on your nose and lower legs, which are hot spots for melanoma. And try a stick or thicker lotion on your face. "They're less likely to run into your eyes than sprays, which work better on your body," Dr. Brightman says.

Your SPF Excuse: "I don't burn easily. And a little color can't hurt, right?"

Fact: A tan may look innocent (especially compared with an obviously unhealthy burn), but "even just a slight change in skin color is a direct sign of sun damage," Dr. Mark says. Besides leading to freckling, age spots, and premature wrinkles, a bronze tone indicates that free radicals from the sun's rays have injured your cells' DNA, which can set off a chain reaction that eventually leads to skin cancer. Everyone is susceptible to it, no matter what his or her skin color is.

Fix: Repeat after us: The only healthy tan is a fake one -- meaning one that comes from a bottle. Bronzers are like makeup for your body, tinting skin until you shower off. Self-tanners contain DHA (a safe, sugar-derived ingredient) to make you look like a beach babe for up to a week. How? The sugar reacts with the proteins in your top, dead skin layers, creating a brownish tone. For color and protection, try a two-in-one sunscreen with SPF plus a splash of bronzer or DHA.


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