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Take Extra Care in the Florida Sun

Don't bring home a souvenir that lasts a lifetime

by Dru J. Murray

Florida is a generous place: The diverse people are friendly, the tropical plants are gorgeous, the tropical ocean is warm, the multicultural food is scrumptious, and the sun is steady and bright. Indeed, Florida's sun is the main draw to visitors, especially those who want to bask in its rays and return home with an enviable tan. But visitors need to remember that it can also exact a toll in the form of a bad sunburn. However, with the vast array of sun care products on the market today, you can prevent such an unpleasant occurrence.

Choosing Your Sun Care Product
All the labels on the bottles and tubes of sun care products may confuse you. But if you know the lingo, you can choose a product that is right for you. Remember that a tan of any kind means that you have burned your skin and it is in the process of healing.

A sunblock is stronger than a sunscreen. A sunblock contains chemicals that block the sun's rays by reflecting and scattering them. In other words, a sunblock acts as a physical barrier. Previously, only titanium dioxide was used; it was responsible for the white noses of lifeguards. Now, manufacturers distribute smaller particles of titanium dioxide throughout the sunblock so that it does not create a "white shield" or they use other ingredients that also effectively block the sun.

Among the sunblocks available are Banana Boat's Ultra Sunblock Lotions (SPFs of 15 or 30), Maximum Sunblock (SPF: 50) and Oil Free Sunblock Lotion (SPF: 30); Coppertone's All Day Moisturizing Sunblock Lotion (available with SPFs of 15, 30 & 45); NO-AD's Sunblock Lotion (SPF: 15) and Ultra Sunblock Lotion (SPF: 30); and Neutrogena's Sunblock Stick (SPF of 25), Sensitive Skin Sunblock (SPF of 17), and Sunblock Spray (SPF: 20). Another is Bull Frog Sunblock with all-day waterproof UVA/UVB moisturizing protection and an SPF of 36. These sunblocks may also contain sunscreen chemicals; that is why they list SPFs, or Sun Protection Factors.

A product's SPF tells you how many times longer you can stay in the sun without burning your skin. If you burn in 20 minutes without protection, a product with an SPF of 15 would allow you to stay in the sun for 300 minutes (or 5 hours) without burning.

The most important characteristic of a sunblock or a sunscreen is its SPF. SPFs range from 15 to 50. However, as you increase the SPF between 30 and 50, the amount of protection does not increase as much as it does between 15 and 30. A sunblock/sunscreen with an SPF of 50 blocks only 1-2% more rays than does one with an SPF of 30. In fact, the FDA is deciding whether to limit all sunscreens to an SPF of 30. To choose the correct SPF, you must remember that each individual's skin is different. Some people have skin that begins to redden in 20 minutes, while for others, it might take 45 minutes. Please note that warnings about possible skin damage from prolonged sun exposure also applies to individuals with dark skin.

In my family, I and my daughter's skin burns very quickly, while my son¼s takes longer to burn. The heck with the FDA, I want all the protection I can get so I use Coppertone's Shade (SPF of 45) for her and me, while my son uses a sunscreen with a much lower SPF, say, 25 or even 15.

Sunscreens protect the skin because their chemicals absorb UV rays, thereby preventing them from penetrating the skin. UV rays -- UV meaning "ultraviolet" -- are not visible to the human eye. Broad-spectrum sunscreens are recommended because they protect against both types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate deeper than UVB rays and cause skin damage that results in premature aging and wrinkling. UVB rays are mainly responsible for sunburn and long-term skin damage. A sunburn is usually a first or second degree burn. Protection from these rays is important as they can disrupt the skin cells' genetic material and cause skin cancer.

Interestingly, though sunscreens used to be more prevalent on store shelves than sunblocks, the opposite is true now. Still, there are numerous ones to choose from: among them are Coppertone's Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion with an SPF of 4 that offers waterproof UVA/UVB protection. Going up a notch in protection is its 8 SPF All Day UVA/UVB Protection Waterproof Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion. NO-AD has an 8 SPF Sunscreen Lotion that contains aloe vera, cocoa butter, and Vitamin E. According to Banana Boat, its Sunscreen Lotion with an SPF of 8 is waterproof and contains 100% pure aloe vera extract and Vitamin E. "For the Natural Tan of the Islands," Hawaiian Tropics suggests its waterproof Protective Tanning Lotion with an SPF of 8. A new element in sun care products is protection against the sun's infrared, or heat, rays. These heat rays penetrate deeply into the body. Hawaiian Tropics has a 15 SPF or 45 SPF Plus UVA/UVB/IR Protection product that is "all day waterproof and enriched with Vitamins A, D &E."

For sports enthusiasts, manufacturers offer sunscreens with lower SPFs to attract those who want to show their love of outdoor life: Bain de Soleil's Sport 15 Tanning Lotion; Coppertone's Sport with choices of an SPF of either 15 or 30 in a waterproof, dry lotion formula; and Banana Boat's Sport Sunblock Lotion that is "ultra sweatproof, rub proof" and has an SPF of 15.

Gelées are another new product on the market. These products have a thicker viscosity. I saw two in my local drug store: Bain de Soleil's Orange Gelées Sunfilter with an SPF of 4 and Australian Gold's Professional Gelées, which it says gives you "the tanning power of oil."

Other Choices
Oils have been used since ancient times to moisturize the skin and make it glow.

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