Sunscreen advice still good today

Friday, May 30, 2014

A 1997 Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich lamented that "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young."

It included an admonishment to "wear your sunscreen," and spawned a popular song ostensibly offering the same advice to graduates as a way to live a happier life and avoid common frustrations.

There are new things to be frustrated about 17 years later that weren't covered in the column, but the sunscreen advice is better than ever.

Brigham and Women's Hospital's Channing Lab surveyed more than 100,000 nurses in a Harvard Nurses Health study and found that those who had had at least five blistering sunburns when they were 15 to 20 years old had a 68 percent increased risk for common skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, and an 80 percent increased risk of the deadlier melanoma by the time they reached middle age.

What's the best sunscreen?

Consumer Reports ranked Coppertone Water Babies and Walmart's Equate SPF 50 highest for lotions in terms of price and protection from UV rays, and Bull Frog WaterArmor sport and Target's Up & Up top for sprays.

Experts prefer lotions over sprays, but sprays are good for protecting hard-to-reach places like the back, so you might try using both. Be careful not to inhale the spray if you use it, however.

Pay attention to new U.S. Food and Drug Administration-required labels, and watch for products with new ingredients, already approved in Europe, as they become available in the United States.

Don't count on a high SPF product to protect you all day -- reapply them every two hours or immediately after swimming.

They won't do the job alone, but spinach, berries, tomatoes and other foods rich in antioxidants can help heal your skin after a sunburn.

Of course, staying out of the sun completely is the best protection from skin damage, but that's not necessarily desirably for those of us anxious to get outside after being cooped up all winter.

Like the columnist said, wear your sunscreen

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