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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Eclipse The Sun

As far as climatic hazards go, most visitors to Russia worry more about frostbite than sunburn. But those of us who have spent a summer here know that the country's reputation for frigid, never-ending winters is only half the story. This month, temperatures in Moscow have risen to record-breaking heights in the mid-30s degrees Celsius, and Muscovites are showing some skin. While the sunshine may seem inviting after months of sub-zero chills, sunbathers beware: Russia's rays can be as dangerous as any others.

"Ultraviolet light can do damage anywhere in the world," said physician and skin-care specialist Hania Stawowy. "Taking proper measures to shield your skin from the sun is absolutely important in Russia, especially in the summer months."

It's well known that overexposure to sunlight can cause a painful, red sunburn. In the long-term, sun exposure has also been proven to cause wrinkles, freckles, age spots, dilated blood vessels and skin cancer, dermatologists say.

Signs point to increased sun-protection awareness across Russia. May 21 was declared Russia's first Melanoma Day, with free medical examinations to screen for this most serious type of skin cancer. According to, in 2005 there were 53,528 skin cancer diagnoses in Russia, 7,325 melanoma cases and 3,023 skin cancer deaths. Melanoma Day has been held in a growing number of European countries since 1999, with 20 countries now taking part.

To protect yourself from harmful rays, dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen every day, reapplying every 90 minutes. But sunscreen is just one part of a complete sun-protection regimen.

"There's a lot more you should do besides put on sunscreen," Stawowy said.

Igor Tabakov/ MT
Sunbathers applying sunscreen at a Moscow beach: Even in Russia, dermatologists advise to protect yourself against UV rays.
No sunscreen wards off all ultraviolet rays. An SPF-15 sunscreen blocks 93 percent of UV rays and an SPF-30 blocks 97 percent, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says. Add perspiration to the mix, and the effectiveness of sunscreen falls further still.

So if you're going to be outside, make sure you wear a wide-brimmed hat. UV-blocking sunglasses are a must to prevent eye conditions such as photokeratitis, sunburn of the cornea that can result in temporary loss of vision.

If the idea of staying pale all summer makes you cringe, don't despair. There are plenty of ways to fake that sun-kissed glow without putting yourself in harm's way.

The shelves of Moscow's cosmetics megastores, such as Ile de Beaute, L'etoile and Arbat Prestige, are stocked with self-tanners. You can choose a spray, a cream or a gel, starting from 190 rubles. These products produce a chemical reaction that causes the outer layer of the skin to take on a brownish tinge within a few hours of application. As the outer cells are washed away, the tan gradually fades. One application leaves your skin one or two shades darker for a few days. After many experiments and some hideously orange results, this correspondent recommends Lancome flash bronzer self-tanning gel, 1,113 rubles at Ile de Beaute. It's a bit steep, but worth every kopek.

Self-tan beginners might be apprehensive, so some companies offer lotions that tint the skin more gradually. For example, the effects of Dove Sunshine Body Lotion, 155 rubles at Arbat Prestige, build over time and require near-daily usage for color maintenance.

For those who prefer an instant yet shorter-lived solution, Moscow's beauty shops are full of bronzers. Bronzer, usually in a powdered form, can be dusted on the skin with a brush for an instant glow.

Lastly, and most extremely, reformed sun-worshipers can opt to have their tan professionally sprayed on. This trend is just catching on in Moscow, so spray-on salons are hard to find. Of the nearly 30 beauty and tanning salons contacted for this article, only one offered the service: Jacques Dessange, located throughout the city. While the 2,590-ruble price tag might convince some of us that an over-the-counter flush is a more reasonable pick, the added cost comes with the promise of longevity. The salon says one application leaves you tanned for about two weeks.

So as the long-awaited summer descends on Moscow, we have one more reason to celebrate: Healthy skin and a radiant tan are no longer mutually exclusive.