Keep Your Skin Healthy--It'll Cover You for
The single most important thing you can do to keep your skin healthy is
to minimize ultraviolet (UV) damage to the skin. You can still do this and
enjoy a full range of outdoor activities by the faithful, regular use of a
sunscreen which protects against BOTH short-wavelength UV (UVB--the
sunburn wavelength) and longer-wavelength UV (UVA--the wavelength that
causes wrinkling, photoaging, and brown spots).
Most people don't realize that the bulk of ultraviolet damage in adults
occurs not at the beach or vacation outings (that's the one time most
people use sunscreens), but with the repeated small daily exposures as we
go about our everyday routine. Thus to be effective, a sunscreen should be
used every day on the face and neck, and applied to additional areas of
the body as appropriate on leisure time exposures.
Please remember that the sunscreen SPF number refers only to its
ability to block out the sunburn (UVB) wavelength (an SPF 2 blocks out 50%
of UVB; SPF 4, 75%; SPF 10, 90%; SPF 30, 96%; thus by going from an SPF 10
to an SPF 30, you're only adding about 6% more protection!). The SPF
number only refers to UVB protection. Unfortunately, there is no number
system for UVA
protection, and some sunscreens which claim to protect against UVA
screen out no more than half of these wavelengths.
Within the past year, two new products have entered the market which
afford good protection against both UV wavelengths: Ombrelle, available as
both a lotion suitable as a makeup base and a spray similar to an
aftershave, and Pre-Sun Ultra, available as a clear gel or a cream. (There
are over a dozen types of Pre-Sun; be sure to get the Pre-Sun Ultra.) Both
these products are highly water resistant, maintaining full protection for
more than an hour of swimming or vigorous sweating.
Since tanning booths produce both UVB and UVA they are best avoided.
Tanning is the skin's response to injury by ultraviolet light. There is no
such thing as a safe tan. (Except for tanning lotions which impart color
to the skin without using UV.)
On another subject, the alpha-hydroxy acids have attracted a lot of
attention in recent years. They are excellent moisturizers and can make
fine wrinkles and skin irregularities less evident. Choose a product that
is at least 6% alpha-hydroxy acid. The highest concentration alpha-hydroxy
acid available without a prescription is Aqua-Glycolic, available as a
face cream (10% alpha-hydroxy acid) or a hand and body lotion (12% alpha-hydroxy
acid). For best results this should be applied to the moist skin after
bathing or handwashing.