[By Michelle King]
Recent news catapulted a new sun protection garment from China into the limelight. Spotted on the beaches across China, this radical sun shielding method employs a full Nylon face mask, inspired no doubt by Spiderman and other similar mask crusaders, presumably because of their smooth, pigment free complexions.
These masked bathing beauties are getting attention worldwide even though these Nylon masks are apparently not new. Invented almost seven years ago, they are sold widely in swimwear stores in China and have become a common sight for beach-goers throughout the country.
The invention may be hilarious to their western counterparts but isn’t all that surprising when you consider that (to the delight of their dermatologists) Chinese women often favor pale skin over tans. In fact, fair skin is a sign of beauty and a coveted asset in China and many parts of Asia for that matter. It’s a country that’s captured the great majority of the market for skin whitening produced China Daily notes.
However, this has not stopped international tongues from wagging over the extreme measures Chinese beach-goers have employed in the quest for beauty. Still, it may make a lot of sense in a nation obsessed with their skin. Westerners who love their tans might think the beach goers look funny now, but will they still be laughing in 30 years as these ladies flaunt their curiously youthful complexions in time to come?
Other more traditional ways to shield yourself from the effects of the sun are with a trusty sunscreen, a pair of wide-brimmed hat and a pair of shades.
If you think you are not quite up for the Nylon face mask sported by the mainland Chinese, opt for the best sunscreen money can buy. So which is the best sunscreen for you? Here are some guidelines to help you:
- SPF 30 or higher for UVB protection. The SPF factor rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays. If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, SPF 15 multiplies that by a factor of 15, meaning you could go 150 minutes before burning. Keep in mind that the higher the SPF, the smaller the increased benefit: contrary to what you might think, SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF 15. While SPF 15 filters out 93% of UVB, SPF 30 filters out 97%, only a slight improvement.
- UVA protection. There is no rating to tell you how good a sunscreen is at blocking UVA rays. So when it comes to UVA protection, you need to pay attention to the ingredients. Look for a sunscreen that contains at least one of the following, Leffell says: ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide. Any of those should do the trick.
- Ecamsule. One newly approved ingredient that blocks UVA is ecamsule. It’s been available in Europe and Canada, as Mexoryl SX, since 1993. In the U.S., ecamsule is now sold in L’Oreal’s Anthelios SX products. It isn’t cheap. A 3.4 ounce tube — barely enough for 4 full-body applications — can run $30.
- Avobenzone. Neutrogena’s Helioplex isn’t really a new ingredient; it’s a “stabilized” version of a common UVA-blocker called avobenzone (or Parsol 1789). Unless it’s stabilized, avobenzone breaks down when exposed to sunlight — exactly what you don’t want in a sunscreen. You’ll find stabilized avobenzone in other sunscreens, too, like Active Photo Barrier Complex and Dermaplex.
- Titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Less expensive options for UVA protection have been available for a long time. Old sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide used to make people look pale and ghostly but newer manufacturing techniques have resolved the problem.
- Water and sweat resistance. If you’re going to be exercising or in the water, it’s worth getting a sunscreen resistant to water and sweat. But understand what this really means. The FDA defines water resistant sunscreen as meaning that the SPF level stays effective after 40 minutes in the water. Very water resistant means it holds after 80 minutes of swimming. These sunscreens are in no way water-proof, so you’ll need to reapply them regularly if you’re taking a dip.
- Kid-friendly sunscreen. The sensitive skin of babies and children is easily irritated by chemicals in adult sunscreens, so avoid sunscreens with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzephenones like dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients less likely to irritate the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Sunscreen for skin problems or allergies. People who have sensitive skin or skin conditions like rosacea may also benefit from using sunscreens designed for children. Go for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide instead of chemicals like para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. If you have skin irritation or allergies, avoid sunscreens with alcohol, fragrances, or preservatives.
We like Coppertone oil-free foaming spray, SPF 75+
Suitable for oily/ combination skins
Sloane Inc SPF 70
Suitable for all skin types including sensitive or post-laser skins