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Fashion Forward Sun Protection

How today's hottest styles can protect against skin cancer

May 1, 2009

By Rachel Winters

Sunglass ModelWhen it comes to sun protection, sunscreen always has been high on the sun protection radar. It still is – but would you like to add another layer of protection without feeling like a well-greased baking pan? Fortunately, some of today's hottest fashion trends also offer a tremendous amount of sun protection.

“Wearing clothing that offers extra coverage is great, especially if you’re out and about during the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., because it gives your skin a break from the sun,” says Susan Chon, M.D., assistant professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Dermatology.

It’s easy to incorporate the hottest trends from the spring/summer 2009 runway shows into your skin cancer prevention plan.


LeggingsLeggings have now become a runway staple and can go under dresses and tunics even in hot weather because they aren’t as heavy as pants. They are a great way to defend legs from UVA and UVB rays while running errands or at an outdoor barbeque.

As seen in the Karl Lagerfeld Spring/Summer 2009 Collection.

“Women have a tendency to develop skin cancer on their legs at a much higher rate than men,” Chon says. “This is probably due to more sun exposure over time from wearing bathing suits, shorts, and skirts.”

Long Dresses:

Another leg-saving fashion trend that is extremely popular on the runways for spring/summer 2009 is the move from “mini” to “maxi.” Long dresses are everywhere, and are being worn for day and night. These two dresses were just a few of the many that lined the runway during New York City’s spring 2009 fashion week.

As seen in the Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer 2009 Collection.


 SunglassesThe most fabulous, current sunglass styles are those with extra-large frames that help protect the delicate skin around your eyes from skin cancer and aging. Your sunglasses also should have broad ultraviolet (UV) protection that absorbs at least 99% of UV rays for maximum cancer prevention benefits.

As seen in the Dolce and Gabbana Spring/Summer 2009 Collection.


Tunic Tops:

Pretty, “boho” style beach cover-ups with long sleeves are a great way to save your skin from being over exposed in a teeny-bikini. Tunic tops are not only perfect on the beach, but can transition from day to night when worn with the right accessories, like chunky bracelets, necklaces and belts!

As seen in the Gucci Spring/Summer 2009 Collection.

“When you’re at the beach, any extra help you can get is great,” Chon says. “Continue to wear sunscreen, but an additional cover-up is essential, especially anything that has long sleeves.”

Scarves: Scarves

Summery shawls and scarves in lightweight fabrics are back again this season! Starlets everywhere are wearing them, and they keep often forgotten spots, such as the back of the neck and delicate décolletage, safe from harm. Even men can get in on this skin-saving trend.

For women, as seen in the Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer 2009 Collection.

And for men, as seen in the Versace Spring/summer 2009 Collection.

“Women are usually pretty good about applying sunscreen to their face, but generally forget their necks and the ‘v’ of their chests,” Chon says. “A light scarf is a great way to cover neglected skin that gets a lot of sun exposure during summer months.”

One Piece Bathing Suits:

While bathing suits are not known for providing much in the way of coverage, the new trend of one-piece bathing suits gives skin on your stomach an extra layer of protection. One-piece suits also provide more coverage of the lower back, an area often missed while applying sunscreen.

As seen in the Diane Von Furstenburg Spring/Summer 2009 Collection.

Hats: Sunhat

Modern, wide-brimmed sun hats shield the face, neck, ears and chest from the sun. This season on the runway, the bigger the brim, the better!

Sun hats also should be tightly woven. If your hat of choice is straw, be sure the sun isn’t peeking through by holding your hat over the ground and looking at the shadow it casts. If the shadow is speckled with light, think about investing in a new one.

As seen in the Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer 2009 Collection.

Maximize clothing’s sun protection power

“There are certain colors and fabrics that will offer more protection than others,” Chon says.

To maximize your wardrobe’s skin cancer prevention powers, wear tightly woven, dark-colored fabrics. A simple way to test your tee’s UV level is to hold it up to a light bulb. If you can see the light coming through, it probably isn’t offering you maximum protection.

“A Hanes® t-shirt may have an SPF of 4 to 6, and when it’s wet, it offers even less protection,” Chon says. “Be selective with your fabrics, and if you can tolerate long sleeves or pants, that’s great too.”

Fashionistas everywhere can rejoice

Many specialty lines make clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) material, which acts as a sunscreen and protects skin from the sun even when fabric is wet. The good news is that many UPF lines are becoming more fashionable as skin cancer awareness grows, so if sporty isn’t your style, you’re in luck! Health-conscious fashionistas everywhere can rejoice!

“You don’t need to wear special UPF clothing to get extra protection, just wear a sunscreen with SPF15 or higher under layers,” Chon says. “It is absolutely possible to be fashion conscious and protect yourself from the sun. The trends on the runway this year offer more coverage. We love that!”

No matter what you wear, it’s important to always apply sunscreen and seek shade whenever possible. However, for the days that you do choose to have fun in the sun, you can look your best and play it safe by wearing sun-protective clothing. Anyone feel like shopping?

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