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Pick Your Sun Protection

Tips for finding a sunscreen formula that fits your lifestyle.

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Choose UVA protection with staying power. Titanium and zinc block out both UVA and UVB rays, whereas chemical sunscreens filter primarily UVB and only some UVA — with one significant exception: Avobenzone deflects a wider range of UVA rays, including the deepest-penetrating and most damaging kind. Ironically, it degrades in sunlight. To extend avobenzone's staying power, look for photostabilized versions, such as Helioplex (a blend of avobenzone and oxybenzone, found with other active sunscreen ingredients in Neutrogena products), or an ingredient like Mexoryl (a.k.a. ecamsule, a sunscreen chemical exclusive to L'Oréal and its brands). Try Kiehl's UV Protective Suncare Sunscreen Cream SPF 20 with Mexoryl ($32.50, kiehls.com). More and more companies now offer stabilized UVA protection. Try: Clinique SPF 25 Body Spray ($20, department stores) or Banana Boat Ultra Defense Faces SPF 30 ($9.49, drugstores).

Watch for ratings for UVA; they may appear on sunscreen packaging as soon as this summer. Current labels don't tell you how effective the ingredients are against UVA. But the FDA is currently considering regulations for sunscreens based on rules proposed in 2007. These will probably include a UVA star-rating system designating sunscreen protection as low, medium, high, and highest, with one to four stars.

Count the pluses — for now. Several sunscreens use the Japanese UVA rating on products sold in the U.S. This system designates a +, ++, or +++ to indicate lowest to highest UVA protection. Try Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Sun Defense for Face SPF 50 Sunscreen PA+++ ($30, department stores).

Originally published on April 22, 2009

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