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The importance of sun block to protect your skin

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POSTED May 29, 2013 5:57 p.m.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ‘99, wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice....now.”

First lines of 1999 hit, “Everyone’s Free to Wear Sunscreen,” by Baz Luhrman.

Winter is over and the warmer weather is here. Almost everyone will be out and about, some catching a few rays at the local ballpark, maybe kicking back at a pool or beach lounge chair, or in the backyard grilling.

It wouldn’t be summertime without the smell of hot dogs grilling and sunscreen.

Gone are the days when we slathered on tanning oil, set up shop on a beach chair, and baked to a crisp in the hot summer sun.

Today we know we have to protect ourselves from the sun’s rays to keep us from getting all fried and looking like the main course from a lobster bake or a leftfielder’s mitt.

To many the sun is deadly. It’s a giant ball of fire, literally, and it will kill you . . . if you let it.

According to the medical community, UV exposure is responsible for up to 90 percent of the visible signs of aging.

The difficulty is that it’s not as simple as snatching a bottle of sunscreen from the local drug store and calling it a day. With so many different levels of SPFs and active ingredients, choosing a sunscreen can be confusing.

Hopefully, understanding some of the mystery of sunscreen can keep you protected and gorgeous.

The first sunscreens were developed to prevent severe sunburn in military personnel who spent long hours under strong and direct sun exposure. Today, manufacturers claim all sorts of benefits of sunscreen from not only protecting against sunburn, but preventing skin aging and protection from skin cancer.

Producers calculate SPF – Sun Protection Factor – based on how long it takes to sunburn skin that has been treated with the sunscreen as compared with skin that hasn’t been treated with sunscreen. Theoretically, the best sunscreen has the highest SPF number. Many dermatologists recommend using a product with an SPF of 30 or more.

As you now get ready to go out to enjoy your days off, that outdoor vacation, or just being out and about, you basically can use any type of sunscreen – spray, lotion, cream, wax stick or powder – that is a matter of personal preference and which area of the body you’re covering.

If you have dry skin, you might prefer a cream — especially for your face. A gel or spray might work better for areas covered with hair, such as the scalp.

“There’s no such thing as a healthy tan,” said Vena Hudgins of Vena’s Secrets, a health care studio in Oakdale. “When you’re changing skin color, you’re actually damaging your skin.”

As a clinical skin care specialist, Hudgins recommends starting at an early age, stressing the importance of sunscreen and protection against the sun at an early age.

“It’s so important that children learn to have protection applied at least a half-hour before going out under the sun,” she said. “A rule of thumb is the lighter the eyes, the less pigment you’ll have for natural protection. Keep applying the sunscreen at least every four hours.”

When applying sunscreen lay it on thick and remember often missed spots such as the feet, backs of hands, crooks of the knees and elbows, and scalp.

So go out and enjoy summer.

“But trust me on the sunscreen.”

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