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6 ways to beat the rays

No matter what the bottle claims, you need to reapply sunscreen every two hours and every time you get out of the water.

What you need to know before going to beach:

1. Does SPF Block UVA rays?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures the ability of a sunscreen to block sunburn-inducing UVB rays. It does NOT refer to UVA rays, which can cause wrinkles and skin cancer. Both types of rays can lead to cancer, but UVA rays are the deadliest. Look for sunscreens labeled as Broad Spectrum SPF 15 or higher to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.

2. Does sunscreen expire?

Sunscreens last up to three years, but only if you treat them right. Don't leave your tubes or bottles of protection in the heat or direct sunlight. Store your sunscreen in a cool place and always keep it in the shade, even when you're at the beach. It can lose its effectiveness even when it's not near the expiration date.

3. Can your diet protect you from the sun?

Yes, it can! Fruits and vegetables rich in lycopene (watermelon, guava, pink grapefruit and, especially, cooked tomatoes) can act as a sunscreen from within. You still need to apply sunscreen on the outside. But why not protect yourself inside out?

4. Does waterproof sunscreen offer all-day protection?

NO! No matter what the bottle claims, you need to reapply sunscreen every two hours and every time you get out of the water. As per FDA regulations, sunscreens can no longer claim to be "waterproof" or "sweatproof." Products cannot be labeled "sunblock" anymore either, because, well, they don't actually block the sun. Sunscreens only can be labeled "water resistant," since any lotion you put on will always wash off. FDA regulations also require sunscreens to state whether they remain effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating. All sunscreens are now required to provide directions on when to reapply.

5. Do higher SPFs provide better protection?

No, not exactly. New FDA proposals under consideration would limit sunscreen claims to 50 SPF. Sunscreen protections drop drastically after 50, according to the most recent FDA studies.

6. Do cosmetics with SPFs have to follow the FDA guidelines?

All products that claim to provide Broad Spectrum SPF protection are regulated as sunscreen drug products. Therefore, the regulations FDA has developed for over-the-counter sunscreen drug products apply to cosmetics and moisturizers labeled with SPF values. Questions 1-5 apply to makeup as well as sunscreen.

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