May is Melanoma Awareness month, and I feel compelled to write this post because a friend has just been diagnosed with a scary melanoma and is waiting to see if it has spread or not. This is the thing about Melanoma – you need to catch is very early, and if you do, you should be okay. My friend’s doc said that if she had left it for another 6 months, she would have been in serious trouble.
Being fair-haired and blue-eyed, I have to have annual checks, and have had to have quite a few suspicious-looking moles removed. Unfortunately when I was a teen, we’d never heard of skin cancer. We were obsessed with tanning and would spend hours lying on top of sheets of aluminum foil, slathered in baby oil. And that was in the Summer – in the English winter months, we stuffed ourselves between the plates of cheap tanning beds until the heat got too much to tolerate. So – YES, I am paying the price with quite a lot of sun damage now.
There’s two things you need to know about sunscreen/sunblock this Summer:
1. There are new FDA regulations about how a sunscreen can be marketed – in terms of what’s on its label. Where sunscreens used to be able to boast a high SPF of up to 100, they can no longer do that. The highest SPF that is credible is SPF 50, which ostensibly blocks out 98% of the harmful rays. 30 SPF blocks out 95% of the harmful rays. A product can also not claim that it is sweat-proof and/or waterproof. So look for a sunscreen between SPF 30 and 50 if you are going to be out in the sun, especially if you are sunbathing.
2. Two ingredients have been found to be of great concern. The first is oxybenzone, which is added to a sunscreen because it absorbs UV light. The problem is that it also can be absorbed by the skin where it can disrupt your hormones, and damage your cells – which in turn can lead to skin cancer. The other ingredient is Retinyl Palminate – a form of Vitamin A, which may also increase your risk of skin cancer.
The way to go is to use a mineral sun BLOCK (as opposed to a sun SCREEN.) Most mineral sunblock brands use Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide with block the rays from damaging your skin and reflect them away from you. There are a few brands, some old, some brand spanking new, that I really like. Check these out:
1. M.D. Solar Sciences: I love their Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Face & Body lotion. This new company uses a slew of really great ingredients in their products. It’s unusual to find a Sunblock spray, which emits a fine transparent 360 nozzle spray. It’s very cool because it’s quick-dry, which means you can slip your bikini on right after applying. It’s also apparently water resistant for up to 80 minutes. That said, I never trust the water – I always think that chlorine or salt water is going to wash off some of the SPF – so about 30 minutes is as long as I’ll go before reapplying when in and out of the water. This company also has a useful UV index widget on their site: you simply enter your zipcode and it will tell you exactly what the UV index is in your area today!
2. Suntegrity: I don’t think you’ll find a better facial sunscreen/primer/mosturizer than this outstanding Suntegreity 5-in-1 product. I absolutely can’t live without it. It’s tinted so acts as the most perfect primer for makeup, keeps my skin well-hydrated all day, and it’s SPF 30. Great for everyday and for vacation.
3.If you’re a sporty girl, you might want to check out Sun Bum Pro SPF 50. This awesome sun block is non-greasy, so it won’t run, migrate or slip off you even when you’re enjoying the sweatiest of sports. They also maintain they are 80-minute water-resistant. It’s a cool brand/website, which you should check out for the look and feel anyway.
4. Smart Girls Who Surf: If you have a daughter, especially a tween/teen, I ADORE this line. The branding is so clever because it makes applying sunscreen seem hip, rather than boring. They carry all kinds of products for body, face, lips, and even hair/scalp.
5.Sunology: I’m really digging this brand. It feels great on the skin and all their products meet the SPF 50 FDA guidelines. Their products contain Ferulic Acid, which is a potent antioxidant, and a patented formulation, which helps to prevent premature aging of the skin.
Whichever product you choose, remember to:
1. Reapply every 2 hours.
2. Wear sunblock everyday, even if it’s cloudy.
3. Don’t forget the backs of your hands!
4. Wear a sun hat when out in the sun because you need to protect your scalp.
5. Get a full body mole check annually.