June 27, 2014 8:00 am By Debra D. Bass Post-Dispatch Fashion Editor dbass@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8236

1. If you have only one product in your beauty regimen it should be sunscreen. “Taking the long view, that’s true. The more sun exposure the more photo damage. The damage accumulates just like cigarette smoking,” said Erin Gardner of Dermatology Specialists of St. Louis.

“The sun damages and decreases the functional integrity of the skin,” said dermatologist Craig Kraffert, who is president of the Amarte skin care line. “So older folks will notice it most on the backs of the arm and hands. They will get bruises and the skin will tear much more easily.” Age causes cell deterioration, but we can slow the process significantly by blocking the No. 1 external culprit, he said.

“Two-thirds of all sun damage is incidental,” said Teresa Stenzel, Bioelements director of education. Even if you just leave the house to commute to work or run errands, it doesn’t matter how you were exposed to the sun, “repeated UV exposure not only breaks down collagen, but it stunts new collagen synthesis, leading to sagging and wrinkles.”

2. You can still get skin damage with sunscreen.“Putting on sunscreen is great, but sometimes it’s not enough. Having a tan is an indication that the skin has been damaged, and that damage accumulates. There’s no such thing as a healthy tan. No such thing,” Kraffert said.

“There’s no perfect sunscreen, but the better products do produce a significant block against UV exposure,” Gardner said. Just because something’s not 100 percent effective doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, he said.

3. You don’t have to wait 15 minutes. Because of the way the FDA regulates tests for the water resistance of sunscreens, 15 minutes has become the standard “waiting period” noted on bottles, but Kraffert said sunscreen worked immediately. Don’t use that as an excuse not to apply it in the car or on the beach if you forgot to do it before you left the house. It will still work, but you may want to wait 15 minutes before you take a plunge into the water.

Heather Halpern, the research and development director of the Kiss My Face skin care brand, said that spray sunscreens are usually designed to be used outside, so you don’t have to worry about it not being effective the minute you apply it. Using it indoors could lead to slippery floors, and most agree that you shouldn’t be inhaling the ingredients of the spray, so using it outside is best.

“True, but I do believe there is a (period of) time that (the product) will be diffusing on the skin, so although I personally wouldn’t wait 15 minutes, you probably can’t expect the best results until after 15 to 30 minutes,” Gardner said. That’s why he recommends sun-protective behavior: Minimize exposure between 10 a.m and 3 p.m., wear long sleeves, a hat, sunglasses.

4. Stinging eyes is normal. “All the sunscreen products have the potential to do that, but so does almost anything you put on your face that’s not supposed to go in your eye,” Gardner said. So is that, um, dangerous? “The short answer is no. It causes irritation but not blindness [laughs]. If there’s a persistent problem, I’d tell them to wear a hat and just not put the sunscreen on their forehead.”

5. Sunscreen needs help. See No. 2 above. You can never be too careful, Halpern said.

“Sunglasses (with UV protective lens) are recommended, because the sun damages eyes, too,” Gardner said.

“It’s harder to block UVA rays (these are the rays that cause aging) with our current sunscreen ingredients, but there are newer ingredients waiting for FDA approval that block UVA better,” Kraffert said. So we still need to cover up when we can. The SPF on the bottle notes protection from UVB rays (these are the rays that cause sunburns). Titanium and zinc oxide-based sunscreens typically offer the best broad spectrum protection, but there may be drawbacks in its appearance on the skin.

6. Apply sunscreen last. Unless you’re using foundation or tinted coverage. The sunscreen is meant to be a barricade, so if you have an expensive potion, the active ingredients in it won’t sink into your skin if you apply it over sunscreen. So apply those beauty products first. After sunscreen, you should really apply only a powder, tinted cream or makeup.

7. Shiny skin doesn’t mean oily skin. Don’t worry, if you have a little glow from the sunscreen, that doesn’t mean it will clog your pores, Gardner said. “But it may or may not still be the right product for you,” he said. “If you have oilier skin, it will be harder to mask with a sunscreen (that appears shiny on your skin),” but there are plenty of other sunscreen options.

“Some people like oil,” said Halpern. “I have dry skin, so it feels really good to me, I don’t mind a little glistening and we have a sun protection oil (Kiss My Face Sun Spray Oil SPF 30, $15.99 for 6 ounces) that is also a hair protector.”

If the shine is more of a sheen you don’t like, dust on a little powder.

8. Sunscreen doesn’t like heat. “There aren’t many products that get better when you heat them up, so sunscreen is no exception,” Kraffert said. But it won’t be ruined after a short time. Just keep the bottle in the shade if possible or in a bag or cooler.

If you need to reapply, it’s better to bring the bottle into the heat than to leave it at home. Consumer Reports noted in its July issue that a family of four should empty an entire 6-ounce bottle of sunscreen during a trip to the beach.

9. You don’t have to reapply after two hours. Under normal day-to-day conditions, sunscreen has staying power, Kraffert said. “Most are really hard to wipe off without water, sweat and friction,” he said. So if you get up in the morning, apply sunscreen, go about a ho-hum day and leave the office to go sit on a patio for dinner, you’ll still be covered.

“If you’re out on a really humid day and doing sporting activities etc., I’d encourage a second application, but really it’s not necessary unless it’s been a really long day outside,” Gardner said.

10. Expensive doesn’t mean better. “The best sunscreen is one you’ll use,” Halpern said. “Period.”

“And use liberally,” Kraffert added. So if you are hesitant to slather sunscreen from a $45 bottle that’s only a few ounces big, then you probably aren’t using the recommended dose. A cheaper version may not be as “elegant,” meaning it may have some undesirable quality such as texture, smell or shine. But you have to consider price versus convenience. You absolutely want protection, he said, so maybe you save the high-end product for a work day or weekend and use a cheaper spray or drugstore sunscreen for play.

11. More is better. Whatever you use, it’s probably a good rule of thumb to double it. Seriously. If you aren’t running out of sunscreen often, then you aren’t using enough, Gardner said.

In general, it takes about a golf ball (or shot glass) amount of sunscreen to cover your entire body for a day in the sun. You should apply at least a quarter-size amount to your face and neck. And consider that not all clothing is created equal. A typical white T-shirt has an SPF of less than 7, so apply sunscreen before you put it on.

12. Sunscreen may be dangerous. We know we probably should have mentioned this earlier. There are Internet conspiracy theories about harmful sunscreen ingredients causing cancer and disrupting hormones. But … Halpern, Kraffert and Gardner agree that there’s not much scientific proof that any of the common active ingredients on the market today are harmful. And even if you’re worried, there are plenty of products recommended by the natural skin care faithful that don’t have any ingredients from the dubious list. So there’s no reason to avoid sunscreen.

The real concern is that avid sunscreen use can deprive you of vitamin D (generated from the skin’s being exposed to the sun). Kraffert said that humans just weren’t meant to last past 50 or 60 years, so in olden times sun exposure was a perfectly good way to get vitamin D. Now, people are living much longer, so problems related to sun damage have time to come to fruition. And then there’s the not-so-small issue of vanity.

“People don’t just want to live a long time, they want to look good as they age,” Kraffert said. So that means sunscreen is vital and so are vitamin D supplements, because deficiencies have been linked to unsavory health conditions including dementia, and you don’t need any more excuses to forget to wear your sunscreen.