Stingless Screens And Sunless Tans

Tired of sunscreen-laden sweat dripping into your eyes as you serve a tennis ball? Or perhaps you'd like a deep, dark tan without frying. The sunscreen industry, in a quest to refine its formulas, has some new products that can help.

To take the sting out of your sweat, try one of several "sport" sunscreens. These form a porous film that binds with the skin, so you sweat through them. The new formulas are sold under such names as Coppertone Sport (about $4 to $6 for 4 ounces) and Bain de Soleil Sport Lotion ($8.30 for 3 1/8 ounces).

Even more popular are lotions that bronze you without the sun. Smoother and more natural-looking versions of QT, an early, orangy slather-on tan from Coppertone, they include Estee Lauder's Self-Action Tanning Spray ($19.50 for 4 ounces) and Hawaiian Tropic Self Tanning Milk ($7.75 for 6 ounces).

SCREEN TESTS. These contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which darkens the skin by interacting with its amino acids and proteins. Sunless tans won't wash away but will fade as the top layer of skin gets sloughed off. Beware: Fake tans don't protect you from burning--you still need a sunscreen outdoors.

Of course, you can still buy regular sunscreens. Like the dripless sport versions, most absorb rays of ultraviolet (UV) light before they reach the skin. The sun bombards you with two kinds: UVA, which may cause some skin damage, and the much more powerful UVB, which will actually burn. The ingredient para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) is the most effective UVB block, but it doesn't absorb UVA rays and may irritate the skin. Cinnamate, benzophenones, and salicylates don't absorb as much UVB but do soak up some UVA.

Doctors say to look for a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and a waterproof label. SPF 15 means you can stay in the sun 15 times as long as it would normally take you to burn. Screens above 15 block a greater percentage of burning rays, but the incremental differences are small. Waterproof screens should retain their SPF even after 80 minutes of swimming. Whatever brand you choose, sunscreens take time to work, so remember to apply them 15 to 30 minutes before you go out. Pam Black

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