The 9 New Rules of Suncare
When it comes to my skin tone in summer, I have two distinct shades: pasty white and lobster red. While friends will boast glowing, bronzed complexions by May 24th, I maintain my slightly blue-tinged white colouring. I remember years ago visiting my grandmother at the family cottage on Georgian Bay, about a two hour drive north of Toronto. My grandmother complimented my friends’ glowing tans then turned to me and said, “what’s wrong with you?” That pretty well sums up my summer tanning.
I’m thankful now that I did wear sunscreen for those summer vacations. (More for preventing those evenings when my skin would gradually turn brighter red and I’d have to run for the Noxema cream to cool it down.) New research indicates that UV rays are much more damaging than originally thought. Dr. Tom Meyer at the Coppertone Solar Research Facility in Memphis, Tennessee, says that light at both ends of the spectrum is proving harmful to skin. “Traditional sunscreens protect across a limited spectrum of light. They effectively block out UVA and UVB rays which is a very good thing. But we’re now discovering that there are rays beyond this range that are damaging. So moving forward, I think you’ll see new products and focused research in this area. It’s the next advances in sun protection you’ll see in the coming decade.”
Having studied hundreds of men and women regarding their sun protection habits, he says his number one tip is the simplest. “Find a sunscreen you like and feels comfortable to you. Then wear it daily.” The best formula is useless if you don’t like wearing it. Here are the new rules of sun protection:
- Toweling off will remove waterproof sunscreens
Here is a fact that few beauty editors talk about: drying off after a dip in the pool or lake, will remove even the most waterproof of sunscreens. It’s the friction from the towel on skin that effectively removes most of the product. So you have to reapply after toweling dry – each time!
- You don’t have to wait 30 minutes
Growing up, our parents used to insist we apply sun block inside the house and wait 30 minutes before hitting the beach. That was because those early formulas needed time to absorb into skin. That isn’t the case today. The latest sunscreens are designed to be applied and begin working instantly. Just apply and go.
- Chemical sunscreens will last a maximum of 80 minutes before starting to break down.
Don’t be lulled into false security when it comes to a high SPF on the package. Chemical sun protection ingredients all last about 80 minutes before they start to break down. So that is why you need to reapply several times throughout the day to stay protected.
- Pay attention to neglected spots on the body
Tops of ears, back of the neck, tip of your nose and the back of your legs are all areas that are prone to sun damage. In fact, according to the Cancer Society, the highest incidence of skin cancers on women is the back of the legs. It is the back for men. Don’t forget your hands. Those can be susceptible to UV damage as well.
- Remove sunscreen with a face cloth
If you’ve ever worn a waterproof sport sunscreen spray, you know the formula adheres to your skin and doesn’t move. That is what it is designed to do. It’s especially important for beach volleyball players, long-distance swimmers and runners. But getting that product off at night can be a little challenging. Here is the trick: use a face cloth and mild soap and gently rub your skin in the shower. The friction on the skin will remove the sunscreen effectively. Shiseido also has a cleansing oil that dissolves sunscreen. It’s very effective.
- Sensitive skin? Go for physical blocks
If you have skin that is very reactive and sensitive, look for physical blocks. These will be least irritating to your skin. The new highly milled titanium dioxide is much finer and more comfortable to wear than the earlier formulas. They used to feel like chalk on skin. There has been a huge amount of research and development into making these tiny particles symmetrical so they glide on skin.
- Sunscreen and acne
The truth is some chemical sunscreens can aggravate acne and cause breakouts. The key is to look for one that is non-comedogenic. You’ll see that listed on the box or packaging. There are also oil-free formulas that won’t clog pores or cause breakouts.
- The greatest anti-aging product invented
Despite decades of research by skin chemists, broad spectrum sunscreen remains the most powerful anti-aging product you can buy. That is because daily UV damage accounts for 80% of the signs of skin aging. That $15 bottle of sunscreen should be the first item on your skincare list. You’ll look younger, longer for using it.
- Give your skin time to get used to the sun
Here is a fact that I had never heard in my 10 years as a beauty editor: skin needs time to get used to strong sun. Dr. Meyer explained that our skin gradually gets used to sun exposure over a period of weeks. The temperature and sun intensity slowly increases throughout the spring into summer. So your skin gets used to the change gradually. When you jet down to the Caribbean for a beach vacation, you shock your skin. You see dozens of people lying out in very strong sun for hours and hours. What you need to do is start with a very high SPF sunscreen and limit your time in the sun for the first few days. You can then reduce the SPF and increase the time you’re exposed to the sun. “Give your skin time to get used to strong sun,” he advises.