Have Fun, but Stay Safe

With melanoma claiming the life of an Americanevery 57 minutes, it's time to get serious about sun safety — while at home and on vacation.

No one's telling you to be a shut-in this summer; you just need to use your (well-covered) head, and you can have fun all summer long.

Here are some creative ways you can slip SPF into your daily routine to ensure that you and your family stay as protected as possible this season.

Read the Label

Next time you go to stock up on sunblock, take time to read the label.

Snatching up whatever's on sale is fine, as long as it contains what are known as "physical sunscreen" ingredients, because they are what work to block UV rays. These additives sit on your skin (rather than seep in) and repel the radiation.

"Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the two best physical blockers," advises Dr. Soheil Simzar, a dermatologist at AvaMD in Santa Monica, Calif.

Chemical UV blockers are those that absorb into the skin and are usually more popular with consumers because they're less gloppy or sticky. The hitch? Some of these chemicals wreak hormonal havoc, some are highly allergenic and some cause nervous system issues.

If you're concerned about the chemical risks but don't want to be slathered in a white coating of product, consult your dermatologist or internist to find out which option is recommended for you.

Which Sunscreen Should You Use?

Confused by which formulation of sunscreen to use? "Creams tend to give better protection than spray formulations [because sprays don't] provide a thick enough layer of coverage," Dr. Simzar says.

Have kids who won't sit still long enough to let you apply cream (much less, allow time for it to soak in)? Try a foam formula. They spray out like shaving cream, making application "fun" and coverage more complete.

BONUS: Some brands sell colored foam that lets you see where it's been applied — or where you missed. (The color fades as the product is absorbed.)


Child's Play

Keeping your kids safe from the sun's damaging rays can feel like a full-time job — because it is.

"The majority of sun damage to the skin occurs before 18 years of age," Dr. Simzar says. "This is why it's so important to protect your little ones from harmful UV rays from [the first time they're ever exposed] through adolescence."

To ensure your kids' safety, Simzar offers up these rules:

• Sunblock lasts approximately two to three hours and only an hour in the water, so reapplication is key.

• Seek out a non-comedogenic sunblock for kids in the pre-pubescent/teen years (here, too, physical blockers, zinc and titanium are the best for sensitive and acne-prone skin).

• Don't forget the scalp! A hat is always best, but if that's not a viable option, be sure to spray the part and any exposed scalp area with a water-resistant block.

• Never apply sunscreen to a baby who's less than 6 months old. Newborns should be kept out of the sun altogether.

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