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Chances are you'll be enjoying a honeymoon in the sun, but it's an odds-on certainty that you'll want to return home looking like a bronzed goddess. Few of us can be unaware of the damage sun exposure does to our skin, but we still hanker after a tan. It makes us feel healthier and slimmer and boosts our well-being. The key is to strike a balance between a bronzed body and protecting yourself, but there's more to skin protection than simply preventing burning.

The latest trend is for suncare that starts before you even leave home. Pre-honeymoon creams and supplements can prime the skin so that it's more sun-tolerant. Try Lancaster Pre-sun Booster, £18, or Carita Tan Preparing Serum, £48 (020 7499 7777). Supplements such as Phytomer Bronzstarter Preparatory Sun Care Dietary Supplement, £19 for 90 tablets (0808 100 2204), or Imedeen Tan Optimizer, £37.50 for 60 capsules, help the tanning process and contain free radical-fighting anti-oxidants to help the skin cope with a sudden onslaught of UVA rays.

A fake tan before you go will give you a bit of a body-baring confidence and help you resist the urge to flash-fry as soon as you hit the beach!

Get into the habit of exfoliating your skin once a week.
This sloughs off dead skin cells to reveal a brighter looking, smoother skin. Try Dior Bikini Perfecting Scrub, £19.50, and Origins Incredible Spreadable Scrub, £20. If you tan new skin rather than old skin, and keep it well-moisturused, your tan will last longer and look more even.

Sunlight contains UVA light, which causes skin-ageing, and UVB light, which causes burning and melanoma, so it's important to choose a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB. The sun protection factor (SPF) indicates the product's ability to screen or block the sun's burning rays. It is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed for the skin to burn with the amount of time needed for protected skin to burn.

For example, if you have fair skin and turn red after 10 minutes' sun exposure, your initial burning time is 10 minutes. If you use a suncream with an SPF of 2, it will take twice as long - 20 minutes - for your skin to burn.

Always wear a sunscreen of SPF30 on initial exposure and don't use anything less than SP15 on your face or body. Don't worry! You'll still get a tan! Even if you have black or Asian skin you should still wear sunscreen. Your skin has more melanin (pigment) than white skin, but it's no thicker! It can still burn and is more prone to hyperpigmentation.

Once you have a tan don't be tempted to lower the SPF: A tan does protect your skin to some extent (equivalent to an SPF of about 2 or 3), but not enough to justify reducing your SPF. Remember, melanin is produced in order to protect your skin, so by the time your skin tans, it is already damaged. Rather than being a sign of healthy skin, a tan is, in fact, a sign of damaged skin.

You can get the illusion of a fast tan by using a tinted sunscreen. We love Estee Lauder Body Shimmer Sunscreen SPF15, £17.50, or Nivea Satin Sheen Sun Lotion SPF8, £9.99, or try a sunscreen such as Superdrug SPF15 Sun Lotion with Self Tan, £7.99, or Dermalogica Protective Self Tan SPF15, £20.90 (0800 591818).

Whichever type of suncream you choose, always tan slowly and build up the amount of time in the sun gradually. This will give you longer-lasting colour and you're less likely to peel.

When selecting your sunscreen take your honeymoon destination into consideration. A suncream that is suitable for Eurpope may not offer enough protection if you're going to Australia orAfrica. If you're going to a high-altitude location or you're near the equator where the sun is closer to the earth you'll need to increase the SPF. Try Hawaiian Tropic MAXimum Protective Lotion SPF40, £10.45.

Always choose a suncream that contains anti-oxidants. These scavenge free radicals that are released when your skin is exposed to the sun and reduce the amount of damage they cause. Try Clinique UV-Response Body Gel-Lotion SPF15, £13, or Fresh Sunshield Face and Body SPF30, £34.50 (07775 502084). Eating plenty of brghtly coloured fresh fruit and vegetables help too.

If you suffer from sun sensitivity or are prone to prickly heat, suncreams can aggrevate the problem. It's a 'Catch 22' situation. You need the suncream to stop you burning, but the very ingredients that should protect your skin irritate it. Try Liz Earle Sun Shade Body Protector SPF15, £17 (01983 813914), which uses mineral-based sunscreens rather than chemical-based ones, Weleda Edelweiss Sun Lotion SPF15, £8.45 (0115 944 8222), or Simple SPF25 Sun Protection Lotion, £10.95, which is perfume and colour-free and contains soothing green tea extract and oat beta-glucen to prevent sun-induced allergies.

Like most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to suncream. Using cheap, low-factor products is a false economy. They often protect the skin in patches and when you apply them, coverage is less even. With more expensive formulas, you can spread the cream more easily, so you get a better, more even protection leading to a more even tan. We think Sisley Fluid Body Sun Cream Spray, SPF20, £57, and La Prairie Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Sun Cream SPF30, £75, are well worth splashing out on.

In the evenings and once you return home, extend the life of your tan with an after-sun product that contains soothing moisturisers to rehydrate skin and prevent peeling and ingredients to maintain melanin production. We love Piz Buin Tan Prolonger, £9.99, Guinot Grand Soin Apres Soleil, £21 (01344 873 123), and Ambre Solaire After Sun Hydrating Tan Maintainer, £8.99

'You and Your Wedding' Jul/Aug 04



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