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Tips to Choosing a Tanning or Sunscreen Agent

Remember the days of ordering a coffee at your favourite café -when your most difficult decision was to choose between an espresso, a cappuccino or a flat white? Today of course, your choices are much more diverse – throw in Affogattos, Machhiatos, Viennas, Melloccinos, and Mochas (to name but a few). Of course, your choices don’t end there. Will that be with skim milk or whole? Decaf or regular? In a mug or a cup...?

Now of course that’s just a simple example using coffee. But how do you feel about your choices when it comes to selecting a tanning or sunscreen agent?

Not surprisingly, when faced with the variety and range of products on the market today, the average consumer can find this selection process a little more overwhelming than ordering a cup of coffee.

Tanning products or sunscreen agents are not only available in multiple forms including sprays, lotions, sticks, gels etc.: they can also be targeted to different activities, age ranges and skin types. They are produced by both smaller (less familiar) manufacturers, as well as by the more popular brand name manufacturers such as ‘Banana Boat', 'ChapStick', 'Clarins', ‘Clinique’, ‘Coppertone’, ‘Estee Lauder’, ‘Johnson’s’, ‘Neutrogena’, ‘Oil of Olay’, and ‘Vaseline’.

In response to the demands of consumers, manufacturers continue to provide an ever increasing number of products for you to choose from, with many targeted to specific markets. However, the variety of choices doesn’t mean it makes the selection process easy.

So where on earth do you start?

Besides your skin type, here are some simple tips to consider when making your selection from the variety of tanning and sunscreen products available:

a) Chosen Activity: – Being outdoors is not the only element to take into consideration when factoring in your amount of exposure to the sun. You also need to note the intensity with regards to climate, the season, location and time of day.

For example, just because you may be hiking in a cool mountain region or snow skiing, doesn’t mean you should throw all caution aside. Wind and UV rays still reach you, so protection would be wise. Consider also any exposure to surfaces with reflective qualities (i.e. snow, water, sand, etc.), as these can intensify UV ray harm. Activities that make you work up a sweat or those involving water (e.g. basketball, jogging, sun bathing on a hot beach, biking, water skiing, jet skiing, parasailing, outdoor work and exercise etc.), have the potential to wash off your sunscreen, and therefore need to be addressed also.

Choose a sunscreen product for these activities with both UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of 15 or higher, when possible. As for water / sweat activities, choose a product that offers a waterproof or water-resistant agent.

Tip: Where appropriate, you should also consider dressing to cover up as much skin as possible (e.g. wearing long sleeves, a scarf or hat, slacks or jogging pants).

b) Age: – There are only a few words of caution about age. First of all, health care providers do NOT recommend using alcohol-based sunscreen products on children. And they do NOT recommend using sunscreen agents of any type on babies under the age of 6 months. For children older than 6 months, a lotion is the preferred form of sunscreen, over a spray, for example. And the SPF should be a minimum of 15.

c) Use on Your Body: – Your choice of tanning product also depends upon where you are going to apply the lotion, gel, spray or other form. And it also depends upon the health of the area of the body.

For example, there are lip balms with sunscreen (solid or gel-based ones), which not only help the lips, but can also touch up spots in a hurry. Also if you’re trying to apply protection to fingers, ears, nose and other small areas, a physical sunscreen agent, lotion or gel may be easier than a spray. If you have dry skin, you might want to try a product in lotion or cream form. For oily skin, gel-based or alcohol forms of sunscreen might be better choices. N.B: A word of caution: Do not use alcohol-based products with inflamed skin or eczematous.

Keeping the above considerations in mind, should give you a great starting point from which to choose your tanning product or sunscreen agent.

In addition, a recommendation from a friend for a particular product, (assuming they have similar skin type and circumstances), - or even a particular brand name (remembering that the more popular manufacturers produce products catering to different skin types, activities etc.), can sometimes also be helpful in narrowing down your choices.

Ultimately the choice should be based upon your individual situation, your skin type, and your personal preferences. What works for one person may not be the most ideal for another.

Once you've done some basic research and have found a particular product you feel is suitable, then why not just start with that product. If you find it doesn’t offer you the results you expected, then simply be prepared to do a little more research, look around further and modify your choices accordingly. While there may be some trial and error involved initially, by becoming more familiar with your preferences and the types of products available, you're sure to find the product that’s right for you.
Angela Perin is editor of the 'Safe Tan Ezine', which features practical articles and tips on Beauty, Fitness, Nutrition and more. SAFE TAN - The Ulimate Experience in Natural Sunless Tanning

Angela Perin