The Sun Protection Factor

Oh, the glow of a summer tan. Nothing could be healthier, right? Wrong. Rather than looking at a bronzed bod as the picture of health, see it as the risky skin damage it actually is. This summer, forgo baking your body to an unnatural crisp. Instead, try loving (and protecting) your skin.

Physical Blocks
Physical blocks reflect UV rays and usually contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Physical blocks work immediately, need to be applied less and are commonly broad-spectrum, blocking both UVA and UVB rays.
Try: L'Oreal, Badger, Weleda, Jason & Dr. Hauschka

Chemical Blocks
Chemical blocks absorb UV rays and often contain octisalate, avobenzone and benzophenone. These need to be applied at least 30 minutes before exposure and break down faster, so you must reapply more frequently. Make sure to look for chemical blocks that contain Helioplex or AvoTripex, which guarantee broad-spectrum protection.
Try: Aveeno, Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic & Keihl's

Calculating Your SPF
SPF is the new black (And some of my best friends are black, too); wear it with panache wherever you go. But what the heck does it mean, and how do you calculate your perfect number? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and simply indicates how long you can stay in the sun before you'll burn and need to reapply sunscreen. To calculate your number, multiply a sunscreen's SPF by the amount of time you can spend in the sun before you burn. It depends on your skin type, but in general, most people can't stay out more than 10 to 20 minutes without burning. Let's say you burn after 20 minutes: 20 minutes x SPF 30 = 600 minutes or 10 hours of protection.

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Let's say you burn after 20 minutes: 20 minutes x SPF 30 = 600 minutes or 10 hours of protection. As someone who burns after five minutes in the sun, I'm obligated to provide some additional info here. Sun block does not increase the length of time you can stay in the sun beyond two hours at the outside. It does increase the amount of protection based on no sun block at all. In other words, SPF 15 could give you 15 times the sun protection over no sun block at all. BUT (and this is a biggie) sunscreen MUST be reapplied every two hours because its protection wears off after that. Also, SPF numbers should only be used as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. You also need to adjust for the fairness of your skin (I use SPF 15 indoors), strength of the sun, wind, whether you're swimming and/or sweating, and a host of other factors, including the amount of sunscreen you use; most people don't use nearly enough. And take it from someone who has had her share of painful (and dangerous) sunburns: If you can see your skin turning pink, it's already too late.



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