Sun Protection Facts You Need to Know

The lips are skin too! Your lips can burn just as easily as the rest of your skin, and are just as much at risk for developing skin cancer. Always wear a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply often.

The higher the altitude, the faster the burn. Hikers and climbers should take extra precaution against the sun. Higher altitudes lead to a faster sunburn because you're closer to the sun's rays and often less protected from cloud cover. When outdoors in high altitude, remember to select a high SPF (30 or higher) sunscreen and to reapply at least once per hour.

Self-tanners don't protect you. Unlike the sun's effects, sunless tanning lotions don't damage the DNA in skin cells. Instead, self-tanners contain a colorless sugar called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) that stains the dead cells on the surface of the skin. But don't think you're adequately protected from UV just because your skin turns darker. DHA offers protection equivalent to an SPF of only 2 to 4, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.

What to Look For in a Sunscreen or Sunblock

Again, look for both UVA and UVB protection. Check the label for ingredients such as micronized titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which help prevent melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer), hyperpigmentation (dark spots), and wrinkling and aging of the skin. Sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB will be labeled "broad spectrum."

While no products provide 100 percent UV protection, using a higher SPF does provide more protection, as well as longer protection. Above SPF 30 the percentage of coverage increases only slightly:

  • SPF 15 = 92 percent protection
  • SPF 30 = 97 percent protection
  • SPF 40 = 97.5 percent protection

If you have acne, a waterproof sunscreen could lead to breakout. Use a non-waterproof version instead, but apply it more frequently than the label suggests to guard against dilution from sweating.

If you have an oily or moderately oily complexion, look for an oil-free sunscreen, and if you have sensitive skin, use only PABA-free sunscreens (most sunscreens and sunblocks are now PABA-free).

Protective Clothing

A standard T-shirt provides an SPF of just 4. Thankfully, an increasing amount of athletic apparel is being made with added sun protection. For example, Girls4Sport's style-conscious rash guards, include an SPF of 65 and block 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays. For more information, visit www.girls4sport.com.


Heidi Kelchner is managing editor for Her Sports magazine.

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