My favorite time of the year is anytime the sun is out and the temperatures are hot. I would imagine I’m not the only one who feels this way; we all love summer! However, we don’t all love putting on sunscreen. Some of us enjoy being a golden bronze and will spend countless hours in the sun achieving the perfect glow. While others don’t dare step foot outside without layers and proper covering. Both types of people can think skipping sunscreen is okay and they couldn’t be any more wrong. Sunscreen should be your unisex beauty BFF (yes, even the men reading this need to apply daily). There is a lot of information out there and, with more consumers being concerned about toxic chemicals and being organic, there are valid concerns about the safety of ingredients. This post will not only help you navigate the sunscreen aisle but also help you better decide which sunscreen is right for you.
Why do we even need sunscreen?
The CDC lists skin cancer as the most common form of cancer in the United States despite being one of the easiest cancers to prevent. Using sunscreen daily (and properly) on all exposed areas of our skin helps reduce the risk of developing melanoma. A heavy emphasis is put on daily use because even on a cloudy day, about 70% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can reach us. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays that can cause damage to our skin if we are exposed for too long. These are UVA and UVB. UVA rays are long waves that penetrate deeper into the layers of our skin. The result of UVA damage causes visible wrinkles, sun spots, and other signs of aging. UVB rays are slightly shorter and tend to affect the outermost layers of our skin. The result of UVB damage is sunburn, tanning, and even eye damage (hello, cataracts). A third UV ray, UVC, is primarily filtered out by our ozone layer and doesn’t reach our skin.
And, yes, everyone really does need sunscreen. Even people with more melanin than others and babies age 6 months and older.
What is the best type of sunscreen to use?
There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. The categories are a bit of a misnomer as both have chemical ingredients in them so you can’t automatically assume that one is safer than the other. Both are regulated by the FDA and considered an over-the-counter drug. The difference between the two is that chemical sunscreen causes a chemical reaction on the skin and usually absorbs the sun’s rays while a physical sunscreen scatters or reflects the sun’s rays. If you have sensitive skin, a physical sunscreen might be best as chemical formulas tend to be more irritating the higher the Sun Protection Factor (SPF). The absolute best way to determine which type of formula is best for you is by doing a patch test.
How can you determine the difference between the two? By reading the labels. Chemical formulas will list carbon-based ingredients such as: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone. Physical formulas usually contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
No matter which type you choose, you can find a great one for under $10. Consumer Reports highest rated sunscreens for 2017 are La Roche-Posay, Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk ($36); Equate, Sport Lotion SPF 50 ($5); and Pure, Sun Defense Disney Frozen Lotion SPF 50 ($6). The Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+ also made their top 10.
How much sunscreen should I actually put on?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a liberal amount of sunscreen for use all over the body, approximately one shot glass full (1 oz.) and a bit more for the face. So, for some of us, this means putting on additional sunscreen outside of the SPF 15 that is found in most cosmetic formulations. Don’t worry, you can use tone and moisturize as usual and use sunscreen as your base primer before putting on your makeup.
And if you are spending a day outside, reapplication is crucial. Be sure to keep your sunscreen close by.
What is the right SPF?
For everyday use, you want to no less than SPF 30. If you are going for a day at the beach, SPF 50+ is best. Any SPF listed higher than 50 is usually a scam as the efficacy of those does not tend to be higher than what an SPF 50 can do. SPF 75 and SPF 100 is usually just marketing.
Be on the lookout for “Broad Spectrum” SPF as those are the only sunscreens classified by the FDA to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.