Practice Safe Sun

When patients ask me for the secret to smoother, younger-looking skin, my answer is simple: Defend it from sun exposure. Simple, yes. But not always easy, especially as we come upon Memorial Day weekend, summer’s unofficial kickoff. Don’t get me wrong—just because I’m a dermatologist doesn’t mean I shun beaches, golf courses, and backyard barbecues. I’ve simply mastered the art of beating the sun at its own game. You can, too.

Read the label. Opt for an SPF of at least 15—30 if you’ll be outside a lot. The number measures how long your formula wards off UVB rays, which cause sunburns and skin cancer. Layered on thick, an SPF 15 allows you to stay out 15 times longer without burning. To be sure your sunscreen also guards against UVA, the light that prematurely ages the skin as well as causes cancer, look for the words broad-spectrum. I love the physical broad spectrum blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—which now come in light sprays and lotions that glide on without pasty residue. Chemical broad spectrum blockers, like avobenzone, are a good second choice. But ironically, sunlight weakens them, making frequent reapplication a must.

Lay it on thick. When dashing to work, sunscreen moisturizer or makeup will protect the skin—assuming you apply it to your entire face, which many of us don’t. But before you head to the beach, pool, or picnic, slick on a shot glass’s worth of the stuff , taking care to cover forgotten areas, like the backs of your knees, behind your ears, and under swimsuit straps. Sunscreen spray is ideal for protecting the scalp, especially if your hair is thinning.

Then apply it again. I recommend reapplying sunscreen for every two hours you’re outside—and again after swimming or sweating. Choosing a water-resistant formula—which means the SPF level should stay effective for 40 minutes of swimming or working out—buys you a little extra insurance.

Drive defensively. Even summer road trips require protection, since most car windows—and office windows, for that matter—let UV rays in. Don’t forget your hands, often the first body parts to betray your age.

Take care of your tube. Keeping sunscreen in a hot car or golf bag can weaken it. I recommend replacing your tube every year—if you’re using enough, that shouldn’t be a problem—or if the color or consistency changes.

Dress for success. A wide-brimmed hat and the right clothing shield the skin better than the best sunscreen—and you never have to worry about it washing or sweating off. Check out for a full range of fashionable sun-protective gear—keeping in mind that your average white cotton tee translates to an SPF 10 at best.

Remember, one blistering sunburn at a young age can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Be sure to protect yourself—and your kids.