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The Importance of Sun Protection

Be sure to reapply sunscreen after water sports.

Be sure to reapply sunscreen after water sports.

Sea Ray Boats

With the sun blazing above us and reflected off the waters below, sun protection for boaters goes well beyond simply choosing a water-resistant, high-Sun Protection Factor (SPF) suntan lotion, applying it once and believing you're done for the day.

First off, if you still have that lone bottle of sunscreen you purchased last season, you're definitely not using enough to protect yourself, and any kids aboard, properly. The rule of thumb is a shot-glass-size amount per application for an adult applied 30 minutes before heading outside and — we can't stress this enough — reapplied every two hours. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that most people use about 1/4 of this amount, significantly lowering their SPF protection.

As you probably already know, there are two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB. The easiest way to separate them is to think of the A as for "aging" and B for "burning" skin. Interestingly, SPF only measures the B rays. While boaters might not need the burn protection on a cloudy day, when only about 40 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays reach us, we're still getting plenty of UVA exposure, so it's important to apply sunscreen every time you go out on the water, no matter what the weather.

SPFs don't just measure the amount of additional time you can stay in the sun before burning. SPF 15 protects again 93 percent of UVB rays, while a SPF 30 protects against 97 percent. Things increase slower as the numbers get higher with a SPF 50 offering 98-percent and SPF 100 offering 99-percent protection, respectively. This is particularly important for those with light skin, taking certain medications that heighten sun sensitivity or with a family history of skin cancer.

Particular attention should be paid to children and teenagers aboard. A study, which followed nurses over the course of 20 years, found that those who had the highest number of bad sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 had increased their risk of melanoma by 80 percent. While early-in-life sunburns have long been suspected to increase future skin cancer risk, this is the first documented, long-term published study.

What's In Your Bottle?
All sunscreens are not alike. BullFrog WaterArmor Sport InstaCool SPF 50+ recently came to national attention when Consumer Reports praised them (along with a Coppertone product) for actually having the "SPF protection promised on their packages after water immersion." Good news for those of us who like to jump in for a refreshing swim.

We found broad spectrum UVA/UVB BullFrog WaterArmor Sport went on non-greasy and dried quick, making it pleasant for reapplying several times in one day. The Quik Gel formula was a particular favorite with a male friend with acne. It's also available as a spray and lotion.

Boating in buggy waters? Water-resistant BullFrog Mosquito Coast Suncreen contains a DEET-free insect repellent that lasts up to eight hours. After the sun went down, we applied its Mosquito Coast Insect Repellent with Cooling Aloe for protection against serious concerns, such as mosquito-carried West Nile combined with after-sun moisturizing benefits. The kids wanted us to mention BullFrog Kids Suncreen, which features SpongeBob SquarePants and a watermelon fragrance that made them actually ask to have their sunscreen applied. (www.bullfrogsunscreen.com)

Ocean Potion might not sound very Heartland, but their Protect & Renew anti-aging formulas are for anything but old salts. Face 35 contains premium-priced beauty ingredients such as the patented collagen-boosting peptide Syn-Coll. Body 45 has Pentavitin for deep 72-hour hydration and Vitamin B3 for age spots. (www.oceanpotion.com)

No article on sun care would be complete without a mention of the budget yet first-rate NO-AD sun care. Check out the Sport series: no-nonsense, fragrance free, durable SPF 30 and 50 sprays and lotions. Want something higher? The water-resistant main lineup ranges up to SPF 85 and is billed as "gentle protection" because of skin soothing aloe and Vitamin E. (www.no-ad.com)

The importance of after-sun care can not be stressed enough, whether you've used sunscreen during the day and especially if you have not. Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun lotion entwines ribbons of gel and lotion infused with silk protein and shea butter for a moisturizer that left our skin looking and feeling better than before we went out on the water for the day. Or try the energizing Lime Coolada Moisturizer, Shimmer Effect Lotion or Cooling Gel that offers immediate sunburn relief and helps prevent peeling.

These aren't the heavy, smothering lotions slathered on us as children, and there's good news on the horizon, as the FDA works its way through a "backlog of innovative ingredient approvals." Stay tuned for the next generation of sun protection technology.

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