Protect Your Skin

Photography by: Julie Dennis Brothers
Protect Your Skin
Rationale #4: "I'm allergic to sunscreen."
The truth: In actuality, less than 1 percent of the population is allergic to the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens, with the main culprit being oxybenzone. If you find sunscreens irritating, you're probably reacting to a perfume or a preservative like methylparaben or propylparaben. Switch to non-chemical sunblocks like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are rarely irritating because they consist of microscopic mineral particles that sit atop the skin, creating a barrier that deflects UVA and UVB radiation. New micronized titanium oxides are ground so fine that they blend well with the skin. Try The Body Shop Protect It! Sun Lotion for Face SPF 20 ($15.50; thebodyshop.com), Lavera Neutral Sunscreen SPF 15 ($19.50; saffronrouge.com) or Pevonia Botanica Sunblock Body Shield SPF 15 ($31; pevonia.com).

Rationale #5: "The sun helps clear up my acne."
The truth: Ultraviolet light does have an anti-inflammatory effect that can minimize breakouts and some of the redness associated with them; the tan it triggers may also help camouflage the condition. But because the sun thickens the outer layer of skin and stimulates oil production, any improvement is temporary and mild compared to the long-term consequences. "Ultimately, the payback is that much worse as pores become blocked and the sebaceous glands kick into overdrive," says David Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, N.Y. A good choice for those prone to breakouts is a noncomedogenic sunscreen like Clarins Oil-Free Sun Care Spray SPF 15 ($25.50; gloss.com) or DDF Sun Gel SPF 30 ($22; sephora.com).

Rationale #6: "Sunscreens are smelly and messy."
The truth: Today's products have come a long way. For example, Banana Boat Suntanicals SPF 30 ($8; at drugstores) smells like a fragrant body lotion, yet it offers broad-spectrum protection and soothing botanicals like aloe vera and chamomile. And it's simple to touch up oft-missed body parts like the nose, ears and cheeks with Coppertone Endless Summer Ultrasheer Sunscreen Stick SPF 30 ($6; at drugstores). Also a breeze to apply is Kiss My Face Sun Spray SPF 30 ($10; kissmyface.com), ideal for hard-to-reach areas. For coverage that stays put yet isn't thick and greasy, turn to sweat- and water-resistant Neutrogena Active Breathable Sunblock SPF 30 ($10; at drugstores), which contains the mineral silica to help absorb oil and keep skin dry.

Rationale #7: "My makeup contains sunscreen."
The truth: Most foundations are formulated with titanium dioxide, but using base alone may not keep you safe. "Studies have found that almost all protective value is gone in about two hours," says Deborah Sarnoff, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine and author of Instant Beauty: Getting Gorgeous on Your Lunch Break. The simple solution is to apply a sunscreen or SPF moisturizer underneath your foundation. One hitch: The SPF built into moisturizers often doesn't contain UVA filters, so check the labels to see if they have A- and B-blockers like zinc oxide or Parsol 1789. Ones that do have the essentials: Olay Complete UV Defense Moisture Lotion SPF 30 ($13.49; at drugstores) and Shiseido Extra Smooth Sun Protection Cream SPF 36 ($26; sca.shiseido.com).

Rationale #8: "I never burn, so I'm safe."
The truth: Just because you don't feel the blistery effects of UV rays doesn't mean you haven't done damage, says Bank. Indeed, the clearest evidence of harm is a tan, and analyses of tanned skin show the signs of connective-tissue degradation that can lead to lines, wrinkles and skin sagging. The UV rays may also cause changes in DNA components and cell regulators, effects that over time can make your skin cells more susceptible to mutations that may lead to tumors.

Rationale #9: "It's too late; my skin is fried."
The truth: It's never too late to start using sunscreen, and the payoffs for doing so can be big. "Once you stop the UV assault, the skin can start to function at its best," says Bank. In addition to slathering on sunscreen every day, wear sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and tightly woven, long-sleeved garments. If you follow this advice, you can expect to see an improvement in skin texture and tone in as soon as three months, according to Sarnoff. And really, who needs a better excuse than that to start using sunscreen?