Are vitamins the sunscreen of the future?

The only truly 100 percent "safe" sunscreen is heading back inside before you've had too much exposure.

Since most of us actually like to spend a little time outside, especially in summer, that's not always an option. So we're left trying to figure out which sunscreens are dangerous (almost all of them) and which are safer (the ones with non-nano titanium and/or zinc).

But soon, we might have one of the safest options yet: a blend of vitamins C and E, applied directly to the skin.

In a new study out of Spain, 20 volunteers avoided sun exposure for two months. Then, researchers applied different topical combinations to their skin -- or none at all -- and exposed them to UV light.

They found that an ointment of 2.5 percent vitamin E and 5 percent vitamin C allowed the skin to tolerate 37 percent more exposure when applied before, and almost 20 percent more when applied afterwards, according to the study in the Journal of Dermatological Science.

By itself, the study is interesting enough. But there's actually a growing body of research on this, including a 2002 study on pigskin that found a salve of 15 percent vitamin C and 1 percent vitamin E increased sun protection by up to 400 percent.

Obviously, these are small studies and it remains to be seen how the C+E combo will work out in the real world -- and, if it does, whether this duo would be best as a sunscreen of its own or simply an additional ingredient for what's already on the market.

But with so many bad choices out there, it's encouraging to see new research on something that could turn out to be the best and safest option yet.

In the meantime, stick to sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. For more on how to choose one that's right for you read the free report "How to choose the right sunscreen" I posted at the beginning of the summer.