With summer well underway and the heat coming out to play, there’s no better time than the present to re-evaluate the products we use to protect our skin. Navigating the seemingly endless product options and information available via the internet these days can be overwhelming and downright stressful. What’s the deal with all those different SPF numbers? What’s the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens? Why do some sunscreens not play nicely with makeup? We’ve got you covered.
Quick Key References
Broad Spectrum - Protects you from the two types of UV lights, UVA and UVB, that can harm your skin.
SPF numbers - "Sun Protection Factor" - the corresponding number is a measurement of how long your skin will be protected. Think SPF 50 = 1 minute of UVB ray exposure for 50 minutes you are exposed. Suggested recommendation is a minimum of a SPF of 30 and a maximum of 50.
Why Wear Sunscreen?
Though this seems like a simple question with a simple answer, we ALL know someone who seems to burn in the sun as soon as they venture outside their house or that stubborn family member who claims they “never burn” and skips sun protection completely (or maybe they’re the same person). We hear ya, we’ve all been stuck in the house for months on end and outings may be far and few between, but did you know that sun damage can still happen during short exposure periods (i.e. walking the dog, checking the mail, running errands, etc.), overcast weather, and in some cases, even through your car window? It’s important to wear sun protection every single day regardless of how little or lot you think you’re being exposed and regardless of age, skin color, race, or gender. Sun damage will not only speed up signs of aging, but can also contribute to permanent scarring, sun spots and discoloration, skin cancer, and other health issues.
SPF Numbers: Why So Many Options?
When perusing the sunscreen shelves at your local drugstore, brands seem to offer a huge range of products with numbers on them ranging from 15 to 100+. A common misconception is that a higher sun protection factor (SPF) number automatically means a vastly higher level of protection. In reality, a higher SPF more so represents a duration of time you are protected. For example, an SPF 50 sunscreen will give you 1 minute of UVB ray exposure for every 50 minutes you are exposed. According to the American Cancer Society, “SPF 15 sunscreens filter about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%, SPF 50 sunscreens filter about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%… No sunscreen protects you completely.” Taking duration of sun exposure and filter percentage into consideration, you should therefore choose your SPF products according to how long you plan to spend in the sun and reapply as needed. It is recommended to use products with SPF values of 30 or more for daily use and to also make sure the products you buy are labeled “broad spectrum”, meaning you will be protected from both UVA and UVB rays.
Chemical vs Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens
Another factor to consider when making purchasing decisions is whether to seek out a chemical or a mineral sunscreen for your routine. Many brands produce products in both categories and in deciding which to use, asking yourself the following questions may help.
-What skin type do I have? Is it oily, combo, dry, and/or sensitive?
-Will I be participating in water sports or high-intensity physical activity?
-Do I need my sunscreen to sit well under makeup?
-Will I be photographed?
Chemical Sunscreen - Common ingredients include Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, and Octocrylene. Compounds will absorb UV rays as they attempt to enter skin and requires about 20 minutes after application to protect.
Physical (Mineral) Sunscreen - Sits on top of the skin, can leave a white or tinted residue on skin. Naturally broad spectrum, works immediately after applied (no wait needed). Common ingredients are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Can be less irritating for sensitive skin.
Application: Dos and Don’ts
Now that you’ve narrowed down some options for great sun protection products, here’s the low down on the dos and don’ts of applying sunscreen (yes, there is a wrong way and right way to do it!)
-DO apply sunscreen daily. The recommended timing for sun protection products in a morning routine is as a last skincare step after serums and moisturizers and before any makeup. Just like you wash your face or do your makeup, putting on sun protection should be an essential daily step.
-DO apply your sun protection before exposure. This is where reading product labels is key! SPF takes some time to sink in and take effect so it only makes sense to have a layer of protection on before your skin is ever exposed. For your face, neck, and shoulders, first thing in the morning as you’re getting ready is an ideal time and the best way to ensure it sticks as a staple of your routine. Don’t wait until right before you hop in the pool to apply because all that product is going to be washed away just like all our hopes and dreams of having a normal 2020. Anyways… back to the point.
-DO thoroughly cover your face, ears, neck, shoulders, arms, etc. Anywhere and everywhere your skin is exposed (yes, even your hands!) As they say, signs of aging tend to show in hands and necks first; your hands are also often in harsh, direct sunlight while driving.
-DO reapply, reapply, and reapply again. One round of application on a long day on the beach or poolside is not enough! Keep in mind the SPF numbers as previously mentioned and proceed as directed on the bottle. More is more.
-DON’T rely on cosmetic products as your daily source of SPF. Products like tinted moisturizers, foundations, and moisturizers with SPF claims should only be in addition to a marketed sunscreen. As many YouTube videos have explained before, the amount of SPF in makeup is a tiny fraction of what is needed on a daily basis; you would have to completely drench your face in layers and layers of a foundation or powder to achieve the bare minimum level of daily SPF needed.
-DON’T let your family or friends make excuses for not wearing sunscreen. Everyone is susceptible to sun damage no matter their age, skin color, race, or gender. Please, for the love of everything, tell your boyfriend, dad, brother, cousin, guy friends, etc. that they DO need to put on sunscreen and that skincare is NOT “just for women”. Are we projecting a little? Maybe.
-DON’T use tanning beds. It’s 2020 people, we need to stop with the tanning beds once and for all. The lamps used in these processes give out UVA rays and in many cases, UVB rays as well which can both cause serious, long-term damage to your skin and unchecked can increase your risk of skin cancer. Seriously, it’s just not worth it for any amount of time or money. Sunless tanning products like those from Sjolie are easy to use from home, get you the same results, are often formulated with good-for-your-skin ingredients like Vitamin E, and the best part, are 100% sun-damage free. Don’t put yourself at risk for something that can be achieved much more safely and often at a much lower price point. Friends don’t let friends use tanning beds.
Now that we’ve unloaded all this information on you, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk about some of our favorite, must-have products within the realm of sun protection. There are countless options for sun care at all different price points and for all different needs; our personal picks are in no way, shape or form the be all, end all. As beauty professionals at CRŪ, we pride ourselves on caring for “beauty from the inside, out” and that always includes recommending products and techniques that are tried, true, and trusted. With that being said, what works for us may not always work for you, so equipped with the info you now have, we encourage you to always do your own research, read into ingredients, and always test products out on your own. Without further ado, bring in the dancing lobsters… I mean, gallery.
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