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Sun safety tips from a reformed Florida girl

Is a Solution for:
Age Spots, Sun Protection for Face, Sun Protection for Body
June 28, 2010 Reviewed by admin 9 Comments

The sun is a strange beast. During childhood, it is a source of joy - a sign of summer and an invitation to get out from indoors. But at a certain age, when one becomes cognizant of its malign powers, the sun mutates from friend to foe. It is only in the past few years that I have come to comprehend all the signs of aging for which the sun is responsible. Big brown spots. Small white spots. Moles. Leathery skin. Deep wrinkles. Tiny blood vessels. All of these lovely skin accouterments have the sun to thank for their existence. And then there's skin cancer, lurking amid atypical moles and scaly lesions stimulated by the sun. When you think about it, the sun is the skin's worst nightmare.

I learned at an early age that the sun is capable of great evils, especially for someone with my fair skin, prone to proliferating freckles and painful burns. Slathering sun block on the younger me often came with kicking and screaming. But it was critical, since I spent many of my days splashing and running around under the Florida sun. I was persnickety about my choice of sunscreen, amenable only to oil-free face sticks and body sprays. Years of applying only the bare minimum of sun protection has left me mottled and moley. I'm not happy about it, but I've learned my lesson.

Nonetheless, there were moments when my judgement slipped. Buying a multi-pack of visits to roast in a tanning booth before prom and during a semester abroad in Ireland were my most flagrant skin abuses. But I was young and vain, more focused on having a healthy tan in the here and now than suffering the health consequences in the far-off future. Nowadays, my sunscreen dilemma combines the prerequisites of providing broad spectrum protection, achieving compatibility with my daily moisturizer (since sunscreen alone is not sufficient for my dry skin), avoiding a greasy sheen or ghostly pallor, bypassing breakouts, and keeping icky chemicals at bay. Yes, it's a tall order.

For daily safeguarding against the sun, I alternate between two favorites. No sunscreen is capable of making my face as wonderfully matte, balanced, and glowing as DoshaCare Sakala SPF 28 ($29). The formula, based on Ayurvedic principles, blends extracts from turmeric, aloe vera, sandalwood, neem, eucalyptus, hibiscus, fenugreek, shikakai, and tulsi. No less than 98% of its ingredients are drawn from the Earth. Another botanical beauty, Lather Botanical Sunscreen SPF 25 is a lightweight lotion that blends nicely on top of my regular moisturizer, though another layer isn't even necessary. Defense against UV rays is managed by micronized zinc oxide, while extracts from antioxidant-rich green tea, grape leaf, aloe, and olive, as well as B & E vitamins, provide extra protection. At $16, it is also a great buy since one bottle goes a very long way.

As for the rest of my body, no part goes uncovered if I plan to be in the sun for longer than my morning commute. My lips get a layer of Mission Skincare Lip Balmer SPF 15, one of the only SPF-charged balms I've found that lasts a long time and doesn't taste like sunscreen. My decollete gets shielded and smoothed out by Skin2Skin Organic Anti-Photoaging SPF 30 ($68), a tinted sunscreen that combines zinc oxide and titanium oxide, along with all sorts of organic wonders. Warning: Do not get this sunscreen near white clothing - it should be treated with as much caution as liquid foundation.

Before my Monday evening beach volleyball games, I spritz on some Supergoop Bug Away Spray SPF 30 ($16)- also essential for summer picnics, barbecues, and hikes. When I need to whip out the big guns for an entire afternoon outdoors, I rely on my new drugstore buys: Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 70 ($10) for the face and body. The formulas may not win any all-natural awards, but they do incorporate a number of sun blockers for broad spectrum protection. Both sheer lotions are oil-free, fast-absorbing, and sweat-proof, making them worthy opponents to the sun throughout an active day.

My mother could be the poster child for any sun safety campaign. All my life, she would never venture outdoors unless she was cloaked from head to toe like Zorro. Sunscreen - no matter how high the SPF - can't cut it. My mom dreads sitting by the pool, walking on the beach, and going for a boat ride, since each of these activities demands prolonged sun exposure. Playing tennis always entails large-brimmed hats, white long-sleeved shirts, and white leggings under a pleated skirt - even in the middle of an oppressive summer. She would rather get ill from heat exhaustion than risk exposing her flesh to the sinister sun. It makes you wonder why on earth my parents would choose to settle down in Florida of all places.

Though I have never been as vigilant as my mother about my sun protection, once I passed the quarter-century mark, my approach to skin care took a serious turn. I became determined to not just protect my skin from daily UV assault but to also reverse damage already done. I briefly flirted with hydroquinone (in gloTherapeutics gloLightening serum) with the brazen hope that it would vanish my sun spots quickly, without causing the harm that has earned it a black mark in some countries. How silly of me. I learned the hard way that a) my skin is too sensitive to handle this severe irritant and b) the threat of cancer keeps me up at night. After waking up with a patch of flaming red skin, I kicked hydroquinone to the curb. There are so many better, safer alternatives.

I've had lots of luck with PRESCRIBEDSolutions A Bolt of Lightening, which uses an enzyme inhibitor called hexylresorcinol to break up excess melanin deposits and block the production of new melanin. It also draws on plant extracts with proven lightening properties such as koji acid, arbutin, and azelaic acid. In the not too distant future, I will probably pony up for photodynamic therapy to see if I can tone down my hyperpigmentation for good.

Bottom line: my skin will never again be a blank canvas thanks to the sun. I know that my sun spots are, for the most part, here to stay and that they will inevitably be joined by wrinkles, scars, and more freckles with time. Alas, that's all part of the aging process. If you have a favorite sun fighting or fading product, please leave a comment and spread the love!

Ingredients in DoshaCare Sunscreen:
Actives: Octinoxate 7.5 %, Octocrylene 7.0%, Octisalate 5.0%, Zinc Oxide 2.9%
Inactives: Water/Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Sorbitan Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Dimethicone, Polysorbate-60, Silica, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Azadirachta Indica (Neem) Leaf Extract, Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi) Leaf Extract, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Wood Extract, Eucalyptus globules (Eucalyptus) Leaf Extract, Acacia Concinna (Shikakai) Fruit Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Eclipta Prostrata (Maka/Bhrigraj) Extract, Trigonella Foenum – Graecum (Fenugreek) Extract, Allantoin, Squalane, Tocopheryl Acetate, Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Essential Oil Blend.

Ingredients in Lather Botanical Sunscreen:
Parsol 1789, ethylhexyl ethylhexanoate, micronized zinc oxide, deionized water (aqua), glycerin, dimethiconol, caprylic / capric trigyceride, butylene glycol, soja glycine phospholipids, grape (vitis vinifera) leaf extract, DL panthenol, aloe barbadensis extract, decyl oleate, trimethylsiloxysilicate, green tea (thea sinensis) extract, sodium hyaluronate, walnut (juglans regia) extract, laurylmethicone copolyol, dicaprylate dicaprate, niacine, rhatany (radix ratanhiae) root extract, royal jelly, olive (olea europaea) fruit extract, PPG-1 trideceth, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, grape (vitis vinifera) seed extract, tocopheryl acetate, cyclomethicone, sunflower (helianthus annuus) oil, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, ethylhexylglycerin, oxynex K (Peg-8 and tocopherol and ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbic acid and citric acid), tetrasodium salt

Ingredients in Supergoop Bug Away Spray:
Actives: Avobenzone – 2.0%, Cedrus Atlantica (Cedarwood) Bark Oil – 0.4%, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Oil – 0.2%, Octinoxate – 7.5%, Octisalate – 5.0%, Octocrylene – 1.4%, Padimate O – 8.0%
Inactives: SD Alcohol 40-A, Cyclomethicone, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dipropylene Glycol, Dibenzoate, Acrylates Copolymer, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether Benzoate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil

Ingredients in Skin2Skin Organic Anti-Photoaging Sunscreen:
Actives: Zinc Oxide 6%, Titanium Dioxide 6%
Inactives:Water, Lecithin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Iron Oxide (and) Methicone. O-cymene-5 –ol. (Thyme oil based preservative), Cyclopentasiloxane (and) Dimethicone / Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Isododecane (and) Butylene/Ethylene/Propylene Crosspolymer.
Certified Organic Extracts of: Punica Granatum (Pomegranate), Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry/Loganberry) Leaf, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea), Camellia Oleifera Leaf (Green Tea), Symphytum Officinale (Comfrey) Leaf, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail), Rosa Canina (Rose Hips) Seed, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow), Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Sambucus nigra (Elderflower), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Trifolium pratense (Red Clover), Althaea Offinalis (Marshmallow) Root, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) , Macrocystis Pyrifera (Sea Kelp), Panax (Ginseng) Root, Ilex paraguariensis (Yerba Mate), Fucus Vesiculosus (Bladderwrack), Malva silvestris (Blue Malva Mallow), Porphyra Yezoensis (Nori), Ginkgo ( Ginkgo Biloba ), Humulus Lupulus (Hops), Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit.

Ingredients in PRESCRIBEDSolutions A Bolt of Lightening:
Water (Aqua/Eau), Alcohol Denat., Propylene Glycol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sorbitol, Kojic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Berberis Vulgaris Extract, Mulberry (Morus Alba) Leaf Extract, Hexylresorcinol, Arbutin, Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Azelaic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Hexylene Glycol

  • May 18, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Carina, I'm currently testing a new product (it will be on the market in the summer) from Osmotics that is SPF45 and it seems really nice to use and I haven't had any problems (I have sensitive skin too). And there's this one from MD Solar Science

  • May 18, 2011

    by Carina

    I live in Asia, during the summer time the sun is simply brutal, therefore I use products with SPF 30 all year long, but once the sizzling direct sunshine begin in June, I have to switch to SPF 50, PA+++ UVAB Ultra Daily Protection melt-in oil free cream by La Roche-Posay, can not use all those popular dept. store brands(most western ones are way to rich and thick, while the JP brands break my skin!- have thin/sensitive skin), but I'm still not too happy with the product, because I find it's still hard to prevent the sun-exposed freckle from happening, would love to learn more about the sun products for "face" up to SFP50, if there are more good ones which many of you would kindly recommend, would love to learn more about them!

  • May 18, 2011

    by Carina

    I've always follow the products review on this site, and many of you have suggest so many products with great detail, as sizzling summer is coming soon, would like to know more about lip sun protection products, how's the Mission Lip Balmer SPF15? Anymore review info? Thanks.

  • July 18, 2010

    by oneshotfl

    The ONLY facial sunscreen I've used that DOES not make me breakout, is the children's sunscreen that is tear free. Any of the brands work for me, even the store brands.

    Also, I never go outside without lipstick on. If my lips are exposed to the sun (FL resident) I will get fever blisters/cold sores on my lips. Been using Cover Girl's outlast for years even though it makes them feel a bit dry.

  • July 12, 2010

    by Julie Kay

    So glad I checked back here! I'm headed to the beach soon, and this issue is at the top of my list. If I hadn't read your comment (above), Copley, I'd of put the sunscreen on first. It's so weird to me that I've become paranoid about the sunshine after a half century not even considering it... Oiy! ~jk

  • June 29, 2010

    by copley

    Hi ladies! I always apply my regular moisturizer first, then sunscreen, then makeup. I've found that many sunscreen formulas (especially oil-free ones, which sounds like what you need, Junko) are too drying to work as a base layer. Good moisturizer formulations are more focused on nourishing your skin, whereas good sunscreens have broad spectrum protection as their primary goal. So, I like to think that coating my face in moisturizer first allows the beneficial ingredients to penetrate straight into the skin, while layering sunscreen on top enables the UV shields to do their thing.

  • June 29, 2010

    by Junko

    I'm waiting for Copley's layering order answer too Julie. So discouraged by the sunscreens I've tried so far. Not happy with a one of them yet, all too oily/heavy/pore clogging on my break-out prone skin.

  • June 29, 2010

    by colinmack

    Has anyone tried kojic acid as a skin lightner? I've tried it all even prescriptions.

    I just had to have some skin moles removed yesterday at the dermo . I am hoping they come back ok.It is frightening all the damage the sun can do!

  • June 28, 2010

    by Julie Kay

    Thank you, Copley! Your choices give me a guideline what to begin with myself. The past few years, I've fallen into your mom's mindset- give her a bow for a lifetime dedication. She must have lovely skin. You do, as well. Q: Is sunscreen, on the face, applied last, first, or somewhere in between? You, my lass, are a great inspiration! ~jk

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