While we’re staying home under orders from Gov. Tom Wolf, going outside for hikes, bike rides, runs, walks and more solo outdoor exploration is OK.
As we protect ourselves from the coronavirus, we also should be protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays. I’ve said it a million times, but you really should be wearing sunscreen everyday.
Especially if you’re going to be outside, you need it. Even when it’s cold. Even when it’s cloudy. Sunscreen is a must.
If not just for health reasons (skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age 70) then maybe 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. (Sunscreen is the ONLY ingredient that brands can LEGALLY claim under the Food and Drug Administration as “anti-aging” besides a retinoid.)
Don’t believe the sun can do that much damage? Take a look at this photo published in a 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
This unidentified 69-year-old trucker, who had been on the road for 28 years, accumulated lots of exposure to the sun. The left side of his face is severely more sun-damaged thanks to the sun’s rays streaming through the window and onto his face for nearly 30 years. I’m also going to bet it wasn’t always a super sunny day. In fact, up to 80% of UV rays can pass through the clouds.
If this photo isn’t enough to inspire you to apply sunscreen daily, especially when going outside, I don’t know what will.
Anyway, 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 vs. physical sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreens: physical (sometimes called “mineral”) and chemical. They shield you from the sun in two different ways. This is a point where you should get familiar with reading the ingredient label.
Chemical sunscreens, such as octylcrylen, avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate, absorb the sun’s rays and break it down to release heat.
Physical sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are pretty self-explanatory: they physically block the sun’s rays by reflecting them.
Most sunscreens will contain one or the other, either physical or chemical. Some products will contain both kinds. There’s been lots of debate on which are better.
Chemical sunscreens are banned in certain places due to their negative effects on coral reefs. Certain kinds, including oxybenzone, also may have an impact on the endocrine system in the body. (That’s why if someone if looking for a “clean” sunscreen, they may choose a physical/mineral formula.) It’s important to know that not every chemical-based sunscreen contains these ingredients.
On the other side, physical sunscreens have been known to cause a white cast on skin especially in photos taken with a flash or on darker skin tones. It’s sometimes harder to blend physical sunscreens into skin and you typically have to use more product since these sunscreens depend on how much skin they physically cover.
What is SPF?
The SPF number is “a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin,” according to SCF. They 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’ is a must
“Broad spectrum” means the sunscreen protects 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 Skin Cancer Foundation. Exposure to both types increase your risk of skin cancer so, it’s important to look for sunscreens that say “Broad Spectrum” right on them.
SPF or sun protection factor only measures the protection from UVB radiation, so a broad spectrum sunscreen will protect you from both.
In the U.S., you can be certain is a product lists that they are “broad spectrum,” they passed rigors 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, not skin cancer or skin aging.
What SPF to chose
When looking for the SPF number, you’re usually safe with SPF 30 and above.
According to American Cancer Society, SPF 30 filters out 97 percent of UVB while SPF 100 filters out 99 percent. 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, 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, especially if you’re out in the sun all day, swimming or sweating, is imperative. I know that’s hard if you’re wearing makeup so a powder sunscreen like these are a good investment. If you’re hiking, at the beach or something else where you’ll likely need 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 chemical sunscreens and I will break out in painful, red bumps all over. (It was so bad, I didn’t even want to chance it by trial-and-error to figure out which chemical sunscreen ingredient I’m allergic to.) If you’re trying a new sunscreen, do a patch test on your jawline and wait 24 hours to see if there’s any reaction. Don’t make my mistake.
If you’ve experienced irritation from a sunscreen, or a foundation, concealer, etc., that contains a sunscreen, check the ingredients. You may be more sensitive to a certain kind. As per the Food and Drug Administration, active ingredients like sunscreen will be broken out in a separate box on the packaging or info pamphlet of the product or on the product’s website. When in doubt, Google it.
Where does sunscreen go in order of skin care products?
Sunscreen is always the last step of your morning skin care routine. If you’re wearing makeup, it should go 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 a sunscreen. That’s great for 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. I think multi-tasking products are OK but they’re usually going to do one thing better than another and I just can’t risk my health for convenience.
There are obviously pros and cons with both kinds of formulas but I think 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