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Your Skin and the Sun

Certainly no one wants to get a bad sunburn.

Your skin, after all, is the largest organ of your body, and protecting it is probably at the top of your to-do list when you spend the day outdoors at the pool, at the beach, or on the golf course.

But despite your best efforts, there are two easy ways to get a nasty burn (or what sure resembles one!) and a whole lot of skin damage:

1: Set foot out in the sun if you're taking one of a number of commonly-used Rx drugs, and,

2: Trust the protection you're getting from many of the most popular brands of sunscreens.

Where those drugs are concerned, having your skin turn red, blister, and peel after just a few minutes of sun exposure can be triggered by a large number of meds that cause "photosensitivity."

And while you may see the results right away, you could just as easily get out of bed three days later and be as red as a beet!

And for those sunscreens, you may not see all the damage -- not immediately, anyway. But it turns out that the actual protection you're getting from the lion's share of these products is about as long-lasting as an ice cube sitting out in the summer sun.

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Here comes the sun
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It's the side effect from a whole host of meds that can ruin a fun family day outdoors...or even cause you problems just stepping outside to walk the dog.

What happens with some drugs is that the medication can become "activated" by the sun and intensify how you react to those rays -- sort of turning you into a walking solar panel!

Antibiotics, for example, can actually "deposit" into your skin -- and when you step outside, the drug can undergo a chemical change that causes skin damage such as redness, blistering, and peeling.

While some antibiotics will warn you right on the front of the bottle about avoiding sun exposure, they're far from the only drugs that can cause this problem.

Others that can put you at risk for a nasty sunburn-like reaction include sulfonamides (also called "sulfa drugs," which include Bactrim, Gantrisin and Azulfidine) and antidepressants.

If you need to be on one of these meds, your best bet is to cover up as much skin as possible, which includes wearing a hat.

As for which sunscreens to use, well...

It turns out that in a test conducted by the Environmental Working Group, around 75 percent of close to 900 brands analyzed won't give you all the "protection" you might think you're getting by reading the ad copy on the bottles.

While a "poor quality" sunscreen might keep you from showing the obvious signs of a sunburn, the group says, it won't protect you from all the sun's rays -- and that can leave you wide open for skin damage and even skin cancer.

The best ones to look for are those that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Those kinds are also "broad spectrum" sunscreens, meaning you're getting some protection from both types of UV rays -- the long-wave UVA, which cause deep skin damage, and UVB rays, which will give you a nasty sunburn. Kokugensou Wo Item Cheat De Ikinuku

And if you've always gone for the highest SPF ("sun protection factor"), the group advises you to stick with ones in the 30 to 50 SPF category.

But no matter what that number is, to really be protected, you'll need to reapply it every few hours.

Other ways to be sunscreen-savvy include:
Avoiding ones that contain oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (especially for use on kids). Those chemicals have been found to actually promote skin cancer!
Choosing creams over sprays. Not only can aerosols be dangerous if inhaled, they also tend to not be applied as evenly as a lotion would be.
Another surprise from the EWG study are the big name brands that got the group's lowest ratings. These include Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion with an SPF of a whopping 100 and Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+.

But one thing that always gets lost in the summertime sunscreen shuffle is that unless you're taking a drug that makes you hypersensitive to the sun's rays, it's still important to get a short amount of time outside without any sunscreen on to make sure your body is making enough vitamin D.

And if you have to shun the sun due to a med, be sure to take a daily vitamin D supplement.

To Sunning Safely,

Melissa Young