I am going to the Virgin Islands for 10 days and I understand that it is very hot and the sun is intense. I have fair skin, but do gradually tan. Up till now I have been using a sunscreen with an SPF of eight and then a two or a four. Should I start with a higher numbered product since I will be close to the equator? Does the higher number totally protect me from skin damage?

A sunscreen helps to filter out some of the harmful UV rays and let the normal tanning process take place. This tanning is a defence mechanism for the body – the skin is trying to protect itself from damage by producing pigment or melanin to filter the rays. The skin also thickens for further protection.

You should be aware that no sunscreen totally screens out solar radiation, so even the highest sunscreen lotion likely available in Canada (SPF 35) still allows a significant amount through. If you are fair- skinned, you should start with an SPF of 20-25 and do not go lower than a 15 as you tan. Other tips are as follows: Apply sunscreen cream or lotion at least 30-60 minutes BEFORE going into the sun. It needs this time to interact with skin proteins.

Reflection from sand and water or shiny metal can increase the intensity of radiation. Do not ignore skin protection on cloudy or foggy days, as this kind of weather can increase the potential for burning because of the decrease in the ozone barrier layer which protects the earth.

Skin can develop a sensitivity to the sun and you can suffer severe burning or pigmentation spots as a result of chemical reaction from deodorants, deodorant or medicated soaps, perfumes or aftershave lotions, perfumed body lotions, some gels or mousse for the hair, spray-on body fresheners etc., so avoid any perfumed substances.

The sun’s rays can penetrate water up to two to three feet, so when swimming, use the waterproof sunscreens that are available.

When applying sunscreen, do not rub it into the skin, apply it gently onto the skin’s surface.

Apply sunscreen over moisturizer and under makeup for all skin types.

Mineral oil, tanning oils or coconut oils can cause a broiling effect on the skin. They can make the skin more translucent, allowing the sun to penetrate more easily.

Sunscreens should be a year-round concern – sun exposure does not begin and end at the beach. Your skin is exposed whenever you are out of doors.

I have my upper lip waxed regularly and sometimes it takes a half a day to get rid of the redness. Is there a reason for this?

There maybe several reasons for skin sensitivity. Most women experience skin sensitivity when they are near menstruation or ovulation. Some medication can make the skin more sensitive.

Scrubbing the skin with a loofah or rough washcloth just prior to having the area waxed can make the skin sensitive.

Taking a sauna or having a hot shower bath prior to waxing is not a good idea.

Applying lotions or creams, oil or deodorant or using deodorant or medicated soaps before waxing can irritate the skin.

I would like to start wearing mascara but do not know which type is best to use. Any suggetions?

There are so many to choose from that it is impossible to list all the brand names. Instead, here are some pointers so that you can choose the one that is best suited for you. There are three types of mascara; waterproof, which provides longer wear without smudging; lash builders, which often contain fibres to give extra length and thickness to the lashes; and the natural look, which gives definiton and color to the lashes. If you wear contact lenses. I suggest you avoid the lashbuilding types with fibres; they can irritate if the fibres loosen and adhere to the lenses. Mascara is available in black, brown, black-brown, navy, charcoal, plum, khaki green, teal, bronze”copper, olive, violet, blues etc. Try the hypo-allergenic brands if skin aroud the eyes is sensitive. Mascaras are available in liquid, cake, wand or gel. Some contain lash conditioners.

I use a bleaching cream and would like to know if you should apply it over or under a sunscreen.

The major ingredient in bleaching creams is hydro-quinone, a chemical that lightens the color of the skin very gradually and evens out dark blotches or pigmentation. Always apply bleaching cream under a sunscreen. This will protect you from some of the sun’s rays that would otherwise aggravate your problem. In fact, most bleaching creams come packaged with a sunscreen incorporated in them.

If you have developed dark pigmentation for any reason, you should avoid tanning altogether. It can make the blotches worse or you may have a chemical reaction with the sun and bleaching cream.

Should I have a steam treatment before I have a massage?

No, you do not have to have a steam treatment or sauna before having a massage. Some people like them prior to massage because it makes them feel comfortably warm and relaxed.