Be Suntan Savvy

If you’re trying to get your tan on like the guidettes from MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” you may want to think twice. Having that summer glow might look and feel healthy … but it’s not! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of all skin cancer is caused by sun exposure. Ouch!

“Do I really need to worry about that stuff now? I’m just a kid.”
Harsh but true: Just one severe childhood sunburn doubles the chance of developing skin cancer later in life. Kids with fair skin are at highest risk, but even dark-skinned children need sun protection. “Fewer than one-third of children between ages 8 and 11 wear sunscreen,” says the Skin Cancer Foundation’s president. “Parents need to teach children from an early age how to be sun-safe and reduce their risk of skin cancer.”

“Aren’t tanning beds better for your skin than direct sunlight?”
No way! It’s a total myth that tanning beds aren’t bad for your skin. They produce the same skin-damaging ultraviolet rays as the sun. Says the Skin Cancer Foundation: “Study after study has shown that sun bed tanning increases the risk of skin cancer.”

“I really hate my pale complexion! Isn’t there a safe way to tan?”
Why not embrace your natural skin tone? Look at yourself as creamy porcelain (like Scarlett Johansson!), not pale. But if you’re bent on getting a sun-kissed look, use self-tanning lotion or bronzer. They’re way safer than sitting outside, but it’ll give you the same results (and faster). Some tanning salons also offer spray-tan booths if you want to get total-body coverage. (These can be pricey but are a safe alternative to UV rays.)

“Do I need sunscreen even if I’m wearing a hat and sunglasses?”
Brimmed hats and UV-blocking glasses do provide some protection … and are summer-stylin’ accessories! Dark or bright-colored clothes are good too. Still, don’t skip the sunscreen. Go for a water-resistant product with an SPF 15 or higher. Put on a thick layer a half-hour before going outside; reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. And don’t forget easy-to-miss spots such as ears, neck and feet!

“Can’t I just sit under a tree or umbrella? I like the shade.”
Like wearing hats and glasses, sitting in the shade is great for getting extra protection from the sun’s harmful rays. But you can’t rely on that alone since the sun reflects off surfaces -- so slather on that sunscreen.

“I hate sunscreen because it gets in my eyes and burns. Help!”
Try a sunscreen that’s made specifically for babies (really!). These products are tear-free and not as harsh as other products, but they’re just as effective as regular lotions. Bonus: They’re perfect if your regular sunscreen causes breakouts or “backne.”