Here comes the sun, so it’s time protect yourself.
As we emerge from our homes, we’re going outside for hikes, bike rides, runs, walks and more. I’ve said it a million times, but you should wear sunscreen every day, especially if you’re going to be outside, because you need it. Even when it’s cold and even when it’s cloudy, sunscreen is a must. In fact, up to 80% of UV rays can pass through the clouds.
If not just for health reasons (skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70), then do it for vanity reasons. Sunscreen is THE most non-invasive way to stop or decrease signs of aging, aka wrinkles, fine lines, loss of elasticity, etc. Besides a retinoid, sunscreen is the ONLY ingredient brands can LEGALLY claim as “anti-aging” under the Food and Drug Administration.
If you need help finding a facial sunscreen, that’s what I’m here for. Follow these tips to find the best facial sunscreen for you.
Chemical sunscreen vs. physical sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreens: physical (sometimes called “mineral”) and chemical. They shield you from the sun in different ways.
This is the point where you should get familiar with reading the ingredient label. Chemical sunscreens will be listed as one or more of the following: octylcrylen, avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate. They absorb the sun’s rays and break it down to release heat.
Physical sunscreens, which will appear as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the label, are pretty self-explanatory: they physically block the sun’s rays by reflecting them.
Most sunscreens contain either physical or chemical, but some products contain both. There’s been debate about which are better, but it’s your preference.
What is SPF?
The SPF, or sun protection factor, number is “a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It went on to explain it this way: “With SPF 30, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.”
‘Broad spectrum’ a must
“Broad spectrum” means the sunscreen protects you from BOTH types of ultraviolet radiation: UVB and UVA. UVB is responsible for sunburns and plays a role in skin cancer, and UVA causes skin tanning and aging, according to the SCF. Exposure to both types increases your risk of skin cancer, so it’s important to look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum.”
SPF only measures the protection from UVB radiation, so a broad spectrum sunscreen protects you from both. If a product in the United States is labeled “broad spectrum,” you can be certain that it passed rigorous testing through the FDA.
If it’s NOT broad spectrum, the bottle or packaging is required to have a warning that states it only protects against sunburn and not skin cancer or skin aging.
What SPF to choose
When looking for the SPF number, you’re usually safe with SPF 30 and above.
According to the American Cancer Society, SPF 30 filters out 97% of UVB while SPF 100 filters out 99% of rays. That’s not a huge difference, so you are probably OK with an SPF 30.
However, TONS of factors play into it based on sun sensitivity, personal or family history of skin cancer, the altitude, etc. You have to make the best choice for you.
How often and how much?
The best advice is that you can’t ONLY rely on a higher SPF. Sometimes, higher SPF numbers give people a false sense of security. Reapplication every two hours, no matter the SPF — and especially if you’re out in the sun all day, swimming or sweating — is imperative. I know that’s hard if you wear makeup, so a powder sunscreen is a good investment. If you’re hiking, at the beach or doing something else that will require you to reapply a lot, I would totally skip a full face of makeup and opt for sunscreen and a tinted moisturizer. Also, take some time in the shade, wear a big hat, SLATHER YOUR WHOLE BODY (an adult needs about a full shot glass full of sunscreen every two hours) and don’t forget your neck.
Do a patch test first
Chemical formulas tend to blend better, but some skin types also can be more sensitive to these ingredients. For example, my skin HATES a certain chemical sunscreen ingredient, and I break out in painful, red bumps all over.
If you try a new sunscreen, do a patch test on your jawline and wait 24 hours to see if you have any reaction. If you experienced irritation from a sunscreen or a foundation, concealer, etc., that contains a sunscreen, check the ingredients. As per the Food and Drug Administration, active ingredients like sunscreen will be broken out in a separate box on the packaging, product’s informational pamphlet or the product’s website. When in doubt, Google it.
Sunscreen always is the last step of your morning skin care routine. If you wear makeup, sunscreen should go on after moisturizer and before primer or color base (tinted moisturizer, foundation, etc.) Think of it like your coat — you’d never put your bra on over a parka.
Some tinted moisturizers and foundations might contain sunscreen. That’s great for when you’re in a rush, but I wouldn’t bank on that all the time — especially if it’s a day you’ll be out in the sun. I would still apply a sunscreen underneath. Multi-tasking products are OK, but they usually do one thing better than another, and I just can’t risk my health for convenience.
There obviously are pros and cons with both kinds of formulas, but that goes for everything. Finding a sunscreen that works for you might take a little trial and error, but it’s so worth it to protect yourself.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT