Skin care and aging

The best way to keep your skin healthy is to avoid sun exposure.

Stay out of the sun. Don’t be fooled by cloudy skies. Harmful rays pass through clouds. UV radiation also can pass through water, so don’t assume you’re safe if you’re in the water and feeling cool.

Use sunscreen. Sunscreens are rated in strength according to a sun protection factor (SPF), which ranges from 2 to 30 or higher. A higher number means longer protection. Buy products with an SPF number of 15 or higher. Also look for products whose label says: broad spectrum (meaning they protect against both types of harmful sun rays — UVA and UVB) and water resistant (meaning they stay on your skin longer, even if you get wet or sweat a lot). Remember to reapply the lotion as needed.

Wear protective clothing. A hat with a wide brim shades your neck, ears, eyes, and head. Look for sunglasses with a label saying the glasses block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays. Wear loose, lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants or long skirts when in the sun.

Avoid artificial tanning. Don’t use sunlamps and tanning beds, as well as tanning pills and tanning makeup. Tanning pills have a color additive that turns your skin orange after you take them. The FDA has approved this color additive for coloring foods but not for tanning the skin. The large amount of color additive in tanning pills may be harmful. Tanning make-up products are not suntan lotions and will not protect your skin from the sun.

Check your skin often. Look for changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, and spots. If you find any changes that worry you, see a doctor. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that older, fair-skinned people have a yearly skin check by a doctor as part of a regular physical exam.

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