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Weekend warriors: Know your sunscreen

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: May 30, 2014 - 11:25 AM

Consumer Reports issued its annual sunscreen rankings  in time for summer sun. It ranked Coppertone Water Babies and Walmart’s Equate SPF 50 highest for lotions, for price and protection from UV rays. Bull Frog WaterArmor Sport and Target’s Up & Up took the top rating for sprays.

A new study looked at the importance of good sunscreen use. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Channing Lab examined survey data from more than 100,000 nurses participating in the Harvard Nurses Health study and found that those who 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.
 
Study coauthor Dr. Abrar Qureshi and Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, offer these sunscreen tips:

Spray or lotion?
Both experts preferred lotions over sprays. “With sprays, people often don’t apply enough to get the full sunscreen protection,” Qureshi said. “But sprays are good for hard to reach places like the back, so you may want to use a combination.”

What’s the biggest sunscreen mistake?
Assuming that a super-high SPF product will protect us all day is likely the most common reason we get burned. Both experts, as well as the FDA, said products with SPF’s higher than 50 likely don’t offer substantially more protection than those with an SPF of 50. “You really need to re-apply them every two hours or immediately after swimming,” Rangan said. Qureshi added that SPF 15 or under should be applied every hour.
 
What about foods? Can what we eat help protect us from the sun?
Spinach, berries, tomatoes, and other foods rich in antioxidants can help the body repair skin damage caused by the sun, both experts agreed, but they should not be considered a replacement for sunscreen.

Read more from Boston Globe.

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