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Shun the Sun for Great Skin

Teens, if you want great skin now - and 10 years from now - then shun the sun, or you'll have wrinkled, cancer-prone skin.

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Kaminsky says to put on sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go out into the sun. Put it on once more every 2 hours, especially after swimming or sweating.

Catch Rays ... But Just a Few

It's OK to get some sun to give yourself ample vitamin D, which works to build strong bones and boost your immune system to keep you well. That said, milk and other foods are fortified with vitamin D, so you don't need much time in the sun to fill your body's needs.

How much time in the sun is healthy? "It's hard to tell how much sun you really need," says Dr. Hornung, "Ten to 15 minutes of sun a few times a week is plenty."

What about slowly building a "base tan," to protect your skin from long days at the beach? Dr. Hornung says it won't protect your skin. "Even if you want to build a base tan before hitting the beach," she says, "the SPF protection value of the base tan is small. It's not the best way to guard against a future burn."

Also, whether you get your tan slowly as a base tan or all in one week, the studies show that tanned skin increases the risk of sun damage.

Leave the Burn Behind

The bottom line: Avoid the sun to protect your skin from skin cancer and premature aging. Cover up with a hat and shirt, wear sunglasses, stay out of the midday sun, and use sunscreen, which works pretty well. Hornung says, "Even if you could find sunscreen with an SPF of 100, it would not shield your skin well enough. The UV rays still go right into the skin."

While Dr. Hornung hopes that teens will soon think pale skin looks good, there is a "safe" way to look tan and have great skin for life: the spray-on tan. "The spray-on tan is a good option," Hornung says. "Each time you're in UV light, you harm your DNA. While the body usually repairs the DNA, why risk hurting your skin when you can spray-on a tan?"

Whether you shun the sun this year or not, you still need to be aware of skin changes. If you have moles, light hair and fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, or years of sun exposure, talk to your doctor about your risk of skin cancer. With early detection and treatment, most cases of skin cancer are curable.

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Reviewed on June 01, 2007

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