At least three times in recent weeks, I’ve read posts or articles (or comments thereon) stating that wearing sunscreen is either not necessary (if you’re Spanish — tell that to the milky-skinned blondes and redheads who are just as Spanish as their olive-skinned sisters!) or dangerous (carcinogens! Vitamin D deficiency!), and I’ve got my dander up.

For me, not wearing sunscreen is not an option. Plenty of us Rubi Family members — and yours truly — have gone under the knife to deal with skin cancers. Never, thank deities, melanoma, but plenty of other “fun.”

The very best sun protection is staying out of it, but that’s rarely an option. Next best is a hat, long sleeves, and leg-covering trousers or skirts. Oh, hats! I recently received as a gift a beautiful “Panama” hat (really made in Ecuador), but I tend not to wear hats in the city, even though I love hats and look pretty snazzy in them. I should probably rethink my position!

I take a two-level approach in the summer, which is when I’m out in the sun the most. On my face, neck, and décolletage, I use SPF 50, because that’s the part of me that gets regular exposure. On the rest of me, I use SPF 30. The EU has recently revised its sunscreen guidelines, so I know that the products I buy here will protect me from both UVA and UVB damage. If you live in the States, I urge you to spend a little more and look for LaRoche Posay’s sunscreens with Mexoryl SX. They protect much better than the ingredients commonly available, and nearly all dermatologists recommend them. (The FDA has only approved this highly-effective ingredient for this brand!) And don’t bother with anything over SPF 50. It doesn’t work any better, and it tends to lead people to take risks with the amount of sun they get.

I’m also concerned about Vitamin D deficiency, so I take supplements — 2000 IU a day — and if I know that I’m going to be outdoors for just 10 or 15 minutes, I skip the sunscreen on my arms and increase the daily dose that way. That’s all it takes. Ten minutes exposure of the “long bones” (i.e., arms and legs) will do it. Then cover up (see above).

If you are concerned about the ingredients in your sunscreen, and I think this is a legitimate concern, you can visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep page for a list of safe sunscreens, organized by category (makeup, moisturizer, beach/sport, and lip balm). They are also a source for lots of practical tips about sun protection in general.

ETA: Do not forget a pair of quality sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB, even if your eyes are brown. Sun exposure causes cataracts.

Rubi sez: Please do take sun protection seriously and make the best decision you can for your pocketbook, based on the most current science. And enjoy the sunny weather, of course!

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