Sunscreen should be your last resort

EWG says other methods offer better protection against the sun's harmful rays

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Sunscreens are important — but they should be your last resort, says the Environmental Working Group.

EWG says the best defenses against getting too much harmful UV radiation are protective clothing, shade, and timing.

That doesn’t mean your choice of sunscreen isn’t important. Look for sunscreens with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection that not only prevent sunburn but other types of skin damage. Effective sunscreens contain at least 3 percent avobenzone. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to rate well in EWG’s analysis.

But anything higher than SPF 50+ can tempt you to stay in the sun too long. Even if you don’t burn, your skin may be damaged. The bottom line is: don’t depend on sunscreens on doing the whole job. Even more valuable than the proper application of sunscreen are the following precautions:

Wear clothes.Shirts, hats, shorts and pants provide the best protection from UV rays, reducing burn risk by 27 percent — and they don’t coat your skin with goop.

Plan around the sun.Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. UV radiation peaks at midday. Check the UV Index, which provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure.

Find shade — or make it.Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella, or take a canopy to the beach. Keeping infants in the shade,reduces the risk of multiple burns by 30 percent. Infants in the shade lack the tanning pigments, known as melanin, that protect skin.

Don’t get burned.Red, sore, blistered skin means you’ve gotten far too much sun and raises your skin cancer risk.

Sunglasses are essential.Not just a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation.

For more information, see EWG’s sunscreen database evaluating the safety and efficacy of SPF-rated products, visit

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