Five ways to keep skin healthy all summer long

The right line up of products will fight off the sun's damaging rays and help you stay hydrated.

May 09, 2012|Special to The Baltimore Sun

Summer is just around the corner, but its damaging rays and humidity have already arrived. We all know too much sun can damage skin and speed aging, while too much moisture can clog pores. With the right products, you can keep your skin safe from the sun and harness the season's humidity.

Here are five ways to make sure your skin stays healthy this season:

1. Pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

New sunscreen labeling laws require companies to reveal whether their products block UVA rays, UVB rays or both. "Broad spectrum" is the term for a blend that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.

In the past, sunscreens have been focused on protection from sunburn, which results primarily from harmful UVB rays. However, research has shown that though UVA rays typically don't cause burns, they can contribute to skin cancer. The new labeling requirements, which can be seen in batches of sunscreen in stores this summer, will help consumers distinguish what type of protection they're getting.

Dr. Rebecca Kazin, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Dermatology and Cosmetic Center, likes Neutrogena's helioplex blends — they use a formula engineered specifically to block a broad spectrum of rays. The "wet skin" spray is perfect for swimmers, water sports enthusiasts and those who are frequently moving in and out of water. Dr. David Strobel, dermatologist at Strobel Dermatology and the chief of dermatology at St. Agnes Hospital, says you should always choose an SPF 30 or higher.

Try: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid: Strobel recommends the La Roche-Posay product for those with sensitive skin. It's a broad-spectrum, mineral-based formula that has a lightweight, matte finish. $32.95,

2. Pick the right SPF, and apply liberally and often.

The sun might not feel as strong on cloudy days, but Strobel says that 80 percent of ultraviolet rays will come through clouds. So if you're outside at all in the summer, no matter the cloud coverage, apply sunscreen. Kazin says sunscreen wears off quickly, especially if you're sweating, so be sure to reapply every two hours. And make sure you have thorough coverage. It's easy to slather up your arms, legs and face, but it's equally important that you apply sunscreen to the tops of your ears, feet and the back of your neck. Kazin recommends sunscreen sticks for reaching those often-forgotten areas, like the eyelids and ears.

Dr. Noelle Sherber, a dermatologist at CRM Dermatology in Baltimore, notes that SPF numbering is not simple math.

"SPF protection isn't linear," she says, "SPF 30 isn't twice the level of protection as SPF 15, and it isn't additive — layering two SPF 15 products doesn't yield SPF 30 protection."

The new FDA guidelines allow only products with SPF 15 or higher to make claims about protecting the skin from cancer. Sherber says dermatologists still recommend SPF 30 or higher because people typically don't even apply half the amount of sunscreen that is used in lab testing, and the amount is what matters. "You'll actually get better protection from applying a full teaspoon of SPF 15 to your face than half a teaspoon of SPF 30," she says.

Try: Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Sunblock Stick with SFP 50+ for Face: The Aveeno stick may be marketed for babies, but it's perfect for adults with sensitive skin. All ingredients are 100 percent natural, and the stick applicator makes it the perfect solution for your ears, eyelids and nose. $9.99,

3. Wear protective clothing.

The best way to avoid sun exposure is to cover up — not with sunscreen, but with clothing. Kazin says she especially recommends protective clothing for young children — it's a lot less work than having to reapply sunscreen to squirming young ones every two hours — or worse, every time they hop out of the pool. And with new strides in sweat-absorbing materials and anti-cling threads, it's not out of the question to throw on long sleeves for your afternoon jog or tennis match. And don't forget a hat — baseball caps will cover the face and head, but a wide-brimmed hat will take care of your ears and neck, too.

Try: Sun Precautions Solumbra Kid's Surf Shirt: Solumbra's 100-plus SPF clothing offers a solution to those who are sensitive to the sun but don't want to be left sitting in the shade. The swim-ready Kid's Surf shirt in ocean blue will keep your children safe from the sun without having to lather them up each time they're in and out of the pool. The company also makes UVA and UVB blocking outerwear and swimwear for adults. $50,

4. Switch to an oil-free moisturizer.

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