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Lifestyles

‘The O.C.’s’ Bilson worships the sun – and SPF

NEW YORK (AP) – Actress Rachel Bilson is a Southern California girl – a real beach lover – and has been since childhood.

And it’s on those sun-drenched sandy shores that she developed some bad tanning habits, she says. She cringes at the memory of laying out without sunscreen and many trips to tanning beds in high school.

“I have had plenty of burns, sun poisoning in my lips, which was painful and embarrassing, so I have learned my lesson.”

This year, she shares her newfound wisdom as the ambassador of Jergens’ Glow in the Dark Campaign tobenefit The Skin Cancer Foundation. She took the pledge to practice safe sun this summer.

“I’m more of a preacher now. I still have girlfriends at 29 who are laying out without sunscreen,” she says. She not only wears sunscreen, she also wears a hat.

The turning point, according to Bilson, star of “The O.C.” and the upcoming film “New York, I Love You,” was the sun poisoning on her lip, which she feared was a cancerous bump.

The lips are vulnerable to sun damage because they protrude, says Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, a Manhattan dermatologist and vice president of The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Women who wear opaque lipstick get one layer of protection, but she’d also recommend a specific lip product, perhaps something like ChapStick or Blistex with a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. And, she adds, don’t forget to reapply after eating.

Other areas that people tend to miss with sunscreen are the ears, back of the neck and the tops of feet, Sarnoff says. “If you think of the sun in the air, it’s a straight shot down to your feet.”

She also reminds sun worshippers to put their sunscreen on 20-30 minutes before going outside – and that means every day. A few minutes here and a few there without it start to add up, she explains, and damage accrues collectively.

Facts from The Skin Cancer Foundation include: About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to UV radiation from the sun, and up to 90 percent of visible signs of aging are also driven by the sun.

Dark clothing with a tight-weave fabric – think denim – is a great shield from harmful UVA and UVB rays, but a typical white T-shirt likely offers only about an SPF 4.

Bilson’s solution is to wear a bottled tan and sunscreen underneath it. “I still like to go to the beach. I love the ocean, the sun – I love it all. I’m just very safe, covered and SPF’d.”

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