This summer, I have taken the initiative to bike from my Brooklyn homestead, across the bridge, to Chelsea each day I work at Studio 26. While this summer has been Hot with a capital H, I've thoroughly enjoyed the rigor of a 35-minute workout on the way to work, and developed a sense of pride in clocking daily miles. Besides sweating enough to make it look as though I stopped to take a dip in the East River on my route, I started noticing the strangest thing. On my hands, there is a distinct tan line that runs across my knuckles, diagonally, from forefinger to pinky. I stared at them for a few seconds, wondering where such a line could come from? I near giggled when I figured it out. Making two fists, I realized I had a tan from holding my handle bars. And, now that I had noticed, the skin on my face and upper shoulders is significantly darker than my stomach and upper chest, and I could now make sense of why many people had been telling me I look "healthy." I started wearing sunscreen daily last summer, after dancing down Broadway in the annual Dance Parade, and realizing that walking around New York can be a lot like the beach. It's hot, there's direct sunlight, and no matter if you did nothing all day, you're so tired when you get home. I found a moisturizer that had an SPF 15 on its label and started using it religiously on face and body. It's something I recommend to all people who enjoy near translucent, lily-white skin for the 9 non-summer months of the year. However, I feel like my small knuckle tan is a reminder of diligence, and further an indication that SPF 15 may not be enough to protect me as I ride. In an effort to know just how much would be enough, I turned to the ever illustrious world wide web to see what the people are saying about sunscreen this summer around.
The New York Times "Well" blog posted an article in June entitled "Slathering on Sunscreen Shows Results." This particular article chronicles an experiment done on over 900 fair skinned caucasians, in Australia. The foundation of the experiment was to use a population that deals with extreme sun exposure as a fact of life, a product of their geographic location. The study was conclusive, in that it concretely proved that the use of sunscreen "made it clear that extensive, consistent use of sunscreen can alter a pattern of what would be an inevitable progression of photo-aging" (Bickers, Columbia University). A few non-associated scientists criticized the population chosen for the study, stating that in choosing those with the fairest skin, the test population's sunscreen using habits were already fairly good. Regardless, many who have read the study were impressed at the overall compliance of the numerable 900 subjects.
The main critique of the study was that those who are considered the worst offenders, those who bask in the sun as sport, visit tanning beds to keep themselves crispy all year round, and use tanning oil with SPF 4, were not included. Critics were interested in seeing if regular use of sunscreen for these individuals would have any effect on already apparent damage, or would be able to diminish any further effects of sunlight.
Another recent study in sunscreen has taken on the now popularized tinted moisturizer or foundation infused with SPF, inspired by new FDA regulations on SPF in beauty products. The examination proved that these SPF makeups have some efficacy, however, they must be labeled as 'broad spectrum protection' if users are hoping for protection against both UVA and UVB rays. While these makeups are a valiant effort, researchers noted that they are often applied unevenly and can wear off more easily. Additionally, most users apply the product on their face only, and avoid neck, ears, and upper chest, areas that frequently are exposed to the sun. Some cosmetic companies have taken to selling 'primers' to be used underneath foundation and tinted moisturizer, to encourage mindfulness when exposed to the sun's rays. Experts say that simply wearing sunscreen every day is really the only way to ensure full protection (Shapiro).
Above all, the SPF makeup and lotion trend is bringing skin protection into the public sphere of consciousness, which is positive. The crux of the matter remains whether you're getting enough protection. In the case of my two-tone knuckles, perhaps I could use a bit more.
By Emma Judkins Source Material: The New York Times, The New York Times Well Blog