Essentials: Water-Loving Sunscreens

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, June 1995

Essentials: Water-Loving Sunscreens
By Bob Howells

Before you pick a sunscreen off the local beach shop shelf consider its tenacity along with its potency. Unless the concoction is waterproof--or, if you go by the Food and Drug Administration's more accurate language, waterresistant--you'll have to reapply every time you get back to the beach. That not only gets tiresome but costly, since you have to slather on about an ounce of the stuff at a time over your bathing suited body. Here are some lotion-applying strategies, and some recommendations on the better waterproof brands available.

Don't Go Under 15
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 15. That means it takes 15 times longer for your skin to burn than if you left it unprotected. Actually, if you're near water, you might choose a higher SPF, since reflection from sand intensifies damaging ultraviolet radiation by 20 to 30 percent and water reflects as much as an additional 100 percent. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which will turn back both UV-A and UV-B rays.

Get the Timing Down
Most sunscreens take about 30 minutes to start working, so don't wait till you feel like you're burning to apply. Then reapply often. Despite manufacturers' claims that their products will work for hours, the FDA recommends that you reapply sunscreen every 40 to 80 minutes. And remember: Waterproof sunscreens will endure a swim, but most will come off when you towel yourself dry.

Goo Worth Using
The new BullFrog Quik Gel SPF 18 dries faster than any other sunscreen I've tried, and it will last for hours if you don't rub it off. Coppertone's Sport Dry Lotion is available in SPF 15 or 30, though some (like me) will be put off by its somewhat sweet scent. I like the powdery texture of Neutrogena Sunblocks (SPF 15 or 30), and the product seems to be nearly towelproof. Aloe Up Suncare Lotion SPF 20 has a good compromise rating, is one-quarter aloe vera, and dries quickly. If you don't like hats, spray your pate with Sun Splash Scalp Screen SPF 15, which won't make your hair feel goopy. And get a sun-protective lip-balm like Blistex SPF 30 or BullFrog's SPF 18 Sunblock. Lips are skin, too.

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