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One More Way to Enjoy Summer on the Bay

Use the right sunscreen as you have your fun

The best times of summer are the hours we spend outdoors.
    I bet you’re planning plenty such hours. Aiding and abetting your plans are Bay Weekly’s 8 Days a Week and 101 Ways to Have Fun: Your Indispensable Guide to Summer on the Chesapeake.
    Both are packed with things to do on land and on water, where breezes tame the worst of Chesapeake Country’s heat and humidity, and when they fail, you can jump in.
    On land this weekend, there’s South County Festival on Saturday; the Eastport Home and Garden Tour and Summer at City Dock on Sunday; and the Annapolis Arts and Crafts Festival spanning both days.
    On water, you can join the Leukemia Cup Regatta; paddle from Parkers Creek to Flag Ponds; sail with Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating; wade into the Patuxent with Bernie Fowler; and join a floating concert on the Magothy River.
    Good times like these get us into our carefree summer groove.
    Planning ahead, next Saturday, June 18, combines the best of both elements with Bands on the Sand, a musical fundraiser for Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the only festival that brings you to the Foundation’s Bay beach. You can get even closer to the elements if you leave the car at home and go by boat.
    So you can stay there for hours, consider one more way to enjoy summer on the Bay. Use the right sunscreen, one that will keep you safe from both the UVB rays that cause sunburn and the UVA rays that contribute to skin cancer, aging and wrinkling.
    Shopping for sunscreens is mind-boggling. The range of products is so confusing that you’ll be tempted to buy the one that smells best.
    You might as well, because according to the national experts on protection from the sun, most of the claims sun products make are unfounded. With no effective regulation of the products — the federal Food and Drug Administration has been dithering over new rules for 33 years — “sunscreen makers are not required to verify that their sunscreens work, test for SPF protection, check waterproof claims or provide UVA protection,” reports the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based advocacy focused on health and consumer issues.
    In preparation for the sun season, I’ve been studying the Group’s just-released 2011 Sunscreen Guide (http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen).
    Environmental Working Group scientists studied 1,700 sunscreens, lip balms and SPF moisturizers and makeup, including more than 600 beach and sports sunscreens, produced under 292 brand names. Each was rated from 0 (the best) to 10 (the worst) in a product-by-product analysis of safety and effectiveness.
    Only one in five earned the group’s recommendation. The top-rated products were all mineral based, containing either zinc or titanium to help cut UVA exposure. A second tier of non-mineral products is rated for people who don’t like the smell, feel or look of the minerals or worry about absorbing the tiny nanoparticles. None of the recommended products contains oxybenzone or vitamin A, which the group considers dangerous in sunscreens. None are sprayed or powdered, to avoid inhalation of nanoparticles.
    Even so, the recommended list is long at 129 products. Many brands produce lots of products, but only one or two may be recommended. To get it right, print the list and take it shopping.
    I used it to shop four stores: a CVS drug store, a small Food Rite near my marina, the newest Giant in the region (at Edgewater) and Whole Foods. None of the top brands were on the shelves at the drug store or Food Rite; one, an Aveeno screen for babies, was shelved at Giant.
    However, “nearly 90 brands, including CVS, Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Walgreens and Aveeno, now offer sunscreens with zinc and titanium,” according to the Group, so they’re in the ballpark.
    The second tier also includes some commonly available brands: one kind of Australian Gold, two Bull Frog (shelved at Giant) two Coppertone, and one Lubriderm.
    At Whole Foods, I had a choice of about a dozen highly rated screens. Even so, I had to compare labels carefully to be sure of getting the right product within a brand.
    Online, you have a bigger choice, but you have no hope of examining what you’re buying.
    Buying the right product isn’t enough to keep you safe. You also have to use it in the right way.
    “Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and at least every two hours thereafter,” the Group advises. “Reapply after being in the water, sweating a lot or towel drying. Don’t skimp. Apply one ounce (about a palmful) evenly to all exposed skin.”
    You’ll be using a lot and using it in daylight, so don’t buy products that are combined with bug sprays.
    Even better, wear a hat and shirt.
    See you in the sun.