Coco Chanel may have done more damage than good when she accidentally made the suntan fashionable in the 1920s. After a cruise from Paris to Cannes, the style icon came home with shoulders the color of burnt caramel. Suddenly, the look previously associated with only the blue collar working class became the latest rage among the elite.
Fast forward to the present day when melanoma makes even the most obedient fashion follower rethink this trend. The doctors' warnings, horror stories from cancer patients and rapid aging effects can turn a skin-exposing fashion maven into a turtleneck collector.
Yes, exposure to the sun can result in horrid long-term results, but protecting yourself from it doesn't mean you should try to make the burka fashionable. You, your fabulous sense of style and your wellness intentions can all co-exist this spring. We tell you how.
FACE THE FACTS
Your face gets the most exposure to the sun and its dangerous rays (UVA rays cause aging effects and UVB cause skin cancer) and, consequently, should never go without protection. Without some kind of coverage, you're in the danger zone. "Your natural color, nothing darker, is what is healthiest for you," said Dr. Paul Michael, an oncologist with Comprehensive Cancer Canters of Nevada. "The minute you start getting pink, the aging problems are already there." No need to fear senior discount offers long before you're eligible. So long as you rely on these highly fashionable items (and stay in the sun no longer than 20 minutes at a time) you should be fine.
Yes, sunglasses are essential (see story, page 13) but a hat can shade your entire face. "I'm a big fan of the Ultimate Crusher hat on www.sunprecautions.com," said Christie Moeller, a local stylist. "The brim is so wide it even covers your neck."
Consider the styles Jennifer Lopez made popular a couple years back or, for a more upscale look, try the types Oscar de la Renta sends down the runways.
Ellianna Placas, fashion director for Life & Style Weekly, recommends a hat with a bit more edge as opposed to a brim. "Catherine Zeta-Jones was photographed in St. Barts wearing a Melissa Odabash straw hat," she said. "The cowboy style is great for the beach." (Melissa Odabash Cowboy Hat, $98, Scoop NYC and C-Level)
The warmer the weather gets, the more clothes you remove and, consequently, the parts that didn't see the light of day during winter pay the highest price. "You don't want to be a 30-year-old woman with a 50-year-old chest," Michael said. He's referring to the all-too-common wrinkled décolletage that many women who neglect sunscreen start to see as early as their mid-20s. A higher SPF may be in order (nothing less than 15, applied every two hours) on these areas, but a chic cover up will also do the trick. Lucky for you, fashion designers have created swoon-worthy cover-ups.
"The biggest trend in cover-ups is caftans," Placas said. "You can wear them at the beach or to a barbecue if you want." The style runs longer and usually covers the full arm but the lightweight material makes it comfortable in the hottest of temperatures. "Cameron Diaz wears a Vitamin A caftan ... Ladoux also makes a hand-embriodered silk tunic that retails from $125 to $150. Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore and Eva Longoria all wear them." (Vitamin A caftan, $282, Talulah G and Everything But Water; Ladoux Shiva and Goddess tunics, $110, ledouxswimwear.com)
The American Podiatric Medical Association cautions people to pay close attention to their feet this spring; they tend to get left out in the sunscreen application process and end up at high risk for skin cancer. Not only do they need a little extra attention but so does the footwear you wear. "Shoes are just like clothing," Michael said, referring to the protection they serve. "Try to wear something other than flip-flops, but it you really have to then apply sunblock on your feet."
With the flip-flop phenomenon in past years, it may be difficult to part ways but consider other options. "Adidas has sneakers with ventilation so your feet still feel cool," Moeller said (Adidas by Stella McCartney Lalima sneakers, $145, Adidas stores). Steve Madden also offers a tennis shoe that looks like an athletic ballet slipper (Steve Madden Tennis, $69.95, Steve Madden boutique).
If your look needs an upgrade from the sneaker, keep in mind the sandal. "There are a lot of very cute, pretty little sandals that are bejeweled that will work," Placas said. "Something with more coverage in the front and a sling in the back."
Plus, the great flats you gathered during the winter are likely available in open-toe or cut-out styles. (BCBG Max Azria Talina open-toe flats, $210 Saks Fifth Avenue)
Your head, more specifically, your scalp, is just as prone to melanoma as any other part of your body. "Your hair is not enough to protect your scalp," Michael said. "And you can't really put sunscreen there so you have to cover it."
It just so happens that covering your head this season can be quite a fashion statement. For spring, Prada reintroduced the turban (Prada turban, $530, Prada boutique). The silk headgear comes in a variety of vibrant colors that add a certain old Hollywood element.
If turbans come off as too pretentious for your style, look to other accessories that will liven up your look. "(When you cover your head) people will be looking at your face and, let's face it, you want them to think it's beautiful," Placas said. "A large scarf wrapped around your head is really good for that. Nicole Richie did it a lot last summer."
You can rely on designers such as Missoni (Missoni scarf, $195, Saks Fifth Avenue) and Pucci (Emilio Pucci silk jersey scarves, $220, Saks Fifth Avenue) for designs that sufficiently cover the head and step up the style of your poolside look.