No new UVA blockers are likely to hit the U.S. market in time for your week at the beach. So what can you buy this summer to minimize your exposure to UVA radiation -- long-wave rays that penetrate your skin and damage the underlying tissue? Darrell Rigel, past president of the American Academy of Dermatology, offers these tips:
* Read the Label You want a product that includes Parsol 1789 (aka avobenzone), one of the four UVA screens approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This ingredient blocks only UVA, so make sure your sunscreen also contains protection against UVB rays -- the short-wave kind that causes sunburn; look for an SPF (sun protection factor -- a measure of how long the product will keep you from getting burned) of at least 15. Among products that qualify: Hawaiian Tropic Baby Faces Sunblock SPF 50+, Coppertone Sunblock Lotion SPF 30 or SPF 45, and Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 15.
Parsol 1789, said Rigel, is a better choice than oxybenzone, the other top UVA-screening ingredient, because the latter ingredient doesn't cover an especially broad chunk of the UVA spectrum.
* Opt to Block Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect skin by reflecting, rather than screening, UVA and UVB light. And you don't have to be a dork anymore to use them. New formulations don't coat the skin white as old ones did.
* Don't Be Fooled by "Broad Spectrum" Claims Manufacturers can claim "broad spectrum" protection if their products screen even the teensiest portion of the UVA spectrum. " 'Broad spectrum' means nothing," Rigel said. "It's a marketing term."
* Think Outside the Grid Of course, if you happen to be traveling to Europe, there's nothing to stop you from picking up a case or two of sunscreen containing L'Oreal's Mexoryl, which Rigel said is "the best individual agent" in fighting UVA radiation.
* Bee-ware of Fragrances, Oil and Lanolin Okay, this tip doesn't have much to do UVB/UVA protection. But as long as we're on the subject of sunscreen, Rigel adds: People who think they're allergic to sunscreens are most likely reacting to other elements of the product. Oil can block pores and cause acne, and some users are allergic to lanolin. Fragrances can irritate skin -- and attract bees.
-- Jennifer Huget