From the topics posted on message boards at several of the web sites I visit, it appears that the message about wearing sun screen is not getting out.

A member here at posted about getting sunburnt on a lovely spring day. “But I’m black”, she said by way of explanation. And she posted a photo of her beautiful self, glowing pink from the sun. However, her skin tone isn’t that dark and I know Italian Canadians who are darker in complexion than she is.

Last year, I remember another member here at mentioning that she only used a very high SPF sunscreen on her face and often none on the rest of her body.

Since we in North America live in a youth-obsessed society, it bears repeating that the best anti-aging cream on the market is sunscreen. And compared to many of the lotions and potions available to “reverse” damage, it’s also one of the cheapest products in your skin care arsenal.

Today, there are products available for sun protection for everyone. My younger sister is allergic to almost ALL commercial sunscreens. This year, she is using Coppertone Spectra, which is micronized zinc oxide. If even that causes a bad reaction with your skin, there are fabrics available that are lightweight and designed to offer a high degree of sun protection. Sunbrella is the most common brand name of these fabrics. You can also buy this by the yard to make covers for baby strollers, to go above a child’s play area or to create screens and sunshades to take to the beach for your family.

Neutrogena and Coppertone are leading the way in sunscreen research and have many different forumlations of sun protection products for every skin type. Banana Boat is known for their child-friendly products. In high-end makeup lines, Shiseido offers the highest levels of SPF.

Some things to consider:Most sunscreens are only effective for 2 hours: reapply, reapply, reapply.The sun is strongest between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm; try to avoid being outside for any length of time during those hours, and stay in the shade if you are outside. If you part your hair, put sunscreen on your scalp along the part, or wear a tightly woven bandana or hat.Melanoma is more likely to take hold on your legs or back—slather yourself with sunscreen EVERYWHERE. Skin cancer rates are increasing despite increased use of sunscreen.Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer incidence in the world.If you have actinic keratoses, you are at greater risk for developing squamous cell skin cancers. Please visit your family physician or dermatologist for regular checkups, including a full skin screen.

An article in the newsletter of the American Academy of Family Physicians (published July 15, 2000) said it best:

“While the role of sunscreens has been questioned, most evidence suggests that their correct use can lower the risk of skin cancer. Sufficient amounts must be applied at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, with reapplication after prolonged exposure or swimming.” 

Enjoy your summer – safely!