Healthy Living: Nine Suncare Essentials

July 18, 2017

Photo by Bill Hornstein

▶ Generally speaking, wearing any sunscreen is better than none at all. But many products come with ingredients that are bad for you, says the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit health-research organization. Look for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide on your sunscreen's list of active ingredients. If it lists anything other than those two things, don't say we didn't warn you.

▶ Good news for golfers: For years, physical blockers titanium dioxide and zinc oxide could be found only in lotion form. But several companies now offer these effective and highly recommended screens in sprays, making it more convenient for golfers to cover skin and reapply often. One caveat: Do not inhale while applying. These products might contain nanoparticles that are thought to cause lung cancer if breathed in large doses. Our picks: Honest Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 30 ($14); Bare Republic Mineral SPF 40 Sport Sunscreen Spray ($16).

▶ All clothing offers some protection from ultraviolet rays. However, some do a better job than others. Vibrant colors offer a higher ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, than dull ones, for example. And a new shirt off the rack isn't as effective as it will be after it has been washed a few times, because shrinkage closes up the holes in the fabric. Also, wearing synthetic fabrics, like polyester, generally offers more protection than natural fabrics such as cotton.

▶ Most right-handers wear a golf glove on their left hand, so they often forget to take care of the back of the exposed right hand. Don't forget to apply sunscreen there. While you're at it, don't forget your ears.

▶ The best time to avoid ultraviolet-radiation exposure is early or late in the day. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., golfers receive up to five times the amount of UV radiation in an hour needed to cause sunburn.

10,000: People in the U.S. expected to die from melanoma in 2017, according to

▶ Ultraviolet A rays are often the real culprit for health problems related to too much sun exposure. Unfortunately, many sunscreens sold in the United States focus on stopping UVB rays, despite claiming to block both. UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin and are responsible for developing the deadly cancer melanoma. They also contribute to developing free radicals that cause skin damage and suppress your immune system. The most effective ingredient in a sunscreen to block UVA rays is zinc oxide.

▶ Even dedicated sunscreen users often forget that the lips are very susceptible to sun damage, especially the lower lip, which is 12 times more likely to be affected. Wearing lip balm with adequate SPF (15 or higher) is important. And unlike sunscreen, these balms should be reapplied more often and more generously than you might expect. Reapplying every three holes is a good idea. Their protection doesn't last nearly as long as sunscreen.

SPF 50+
▶ Any company marketing sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor above 50 is misleading you. Sunscreens need to be reapplied too often for an SPF above 45 to be necessary. It's overkill. There's also a good chance the product claim isn't true and the SPF is a lot lower than what it states on the packaging. SPF 30 screens 97 percent of the sun's harmful rays and will provide good protection provided it's reapplied at least every two hours. For golfers, that means lubing up again at the turn.

▶ The Melanoma Research Foundation has a campaign to have adults 50 and older perform routine self-examinations for skin damage that could lead to cancer or other sun-related issues. Who better than you to give a thorough look? And is there a better hashtag? Just don't do it on the course.