What The World’s Top Dermatologists Want You to Know About Sunscreen
It’s been pounded into our heads numerous times – no matter where we live (and even when it’s cloudy and overcast), sunscreen must be a part of our daily skincare routine.
Yes, it’s an extra step, but, no, it isn’t optional, especially if you want to slow down the aging process and prevent everything from wrinkles and brown spots to cancer.
Depending on your age, you may or may not have been raised with the “sunscreen at all times” mentality, but a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology determined that “74% of parents today say they worry about sun protection more with their children than their parents did with them, and 90% of parents believe it’s important to teach their children healthy habits now so they will continue to practice them when they are adults.”
In a perfect world, sun protection would be built into every product we use, so we wouldn’t have to think about the extra step. Unfortunately, the active ingredients in sunscreen don’t always play well with other skin care ingredients, so applying it separately is a must, at least for now.
The Truth About Ultraviolet Radiation
Having trouble remembering which ultraviolet ray does what? Think of the “A” and “B” in these acronyms as standing for “aging or burning.” There are also UVC rays, which are the most damaging, but those are filtered by the atmosphere and don’t reach the earth’s surface. You can thank UVA rays for that coveted copper-toned tan, but they also damage your skin on cloudy days and can even penetrate untreated glass (such as the windows of a car – yes, sun damage occurs while driving).
Board Certified Dermatologist, Ava Shamban, M.D., founder of SkinFive and AvaMD Clinics and co-host of The Gist, advises that “UVA rays penetrate the skin at a deeper level than UVB rays, degrading collagen and undermining the skin’s integrity, resulting in wrinkles.” And, that alone is enough of a reason to apply (and reapply) sunscreen.
Ultraviolet radiation – let’s start using that term as a reminder of what we’re really dealing with – triggers the body’s natural defense system. Melanin, a form of pigmentation, acts as a safety mechanism to ward off the damaging effects of the sun. Unfortunately, once the skin begins to change color, even slightly, the damage is done. Even in the 80s, the Skin Cancer Foundation recognized the public’s need for this information and recommended that “suntan” products contain at least SPF 15. Today, SPF 30 is often the minimum that’s recommended.
Finding the Right Sunscreen Can Feel Like Searching for a Unicorn
Sunscreen formulas have come a long way in recent years, so if you loathe what you’re currently using, options abound to suit your needs and skin type. Chemical sunscreen spreads easily and often has a thinner consistency, which makes it aesthetically pleasing. As with most products, though, ingredients matter, and people with dry or sensitive skin as well as those prone to acne or rosacea, may experience stinging, flushing, irritation, and clogged pores when using a chemical sunscreen that includes ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, or avobenzone – which are also reportedly dangerous to the ocean reefs.
Physical sunscreen, often referred to as mineral sunscreen, has had a reputation of feeling thick, sticky and leaving a white chalky cast in the past. Many brands feature more technologically advanced formulations and today’s mineral sunscreens now spread evenly and sink right into the skin. Often labeled “sun block” or “physical block,” physical sunscreen contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both, and received the FDA’s coveted GRASE (Generally Regarded As Safe and Effective) moniker in 2019. A new sunscreen ingredient – PARSOL® Shield, or bemotrizinol (BEMT) – is undergoing FDA GRASE testing now.
Doctor Recommended Sun Protection
A couple of brands that many doctors agree upon are Raw Love and Coola. They’re gentle enough for use on infants, children, and individuals with sensitive skin. And, they’re reef-safe, which means they don’t contain the above mentioned oxybenzone or octinoxate (along with many other chemicals) that are known to degrade the coral reefs fish call home. Formulated with less than 12 ingredients including zinc oxide, raw shea butter, essential oils, and Vitamin E, Raw Love is also one of the purest natural sunscreens on the market. Dr. Shamban also recommends ISDIN’s Eryfotona sunscreens as well as La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios 50 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, particularly the tinted formula, because it spreads easily and offers SPF 50.
Macrene Alexiades, M.D., Ph.D. and Associate Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine offers useful advice for individuals with darker skin tones. “I recommend mixing an SPF 100 with my deep shade of Macrene Actives High Performance Tinted Moisturizer (TM), which contains titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxides. “Combining the two products results in a luxurious, non-ashy, physical sunscreen with SPF 50,” she adds.
If you’re acne-prone, choose an oil-free product. And, for those of you who are searching for something to use during the day while wearing makeup or for touch ups, powder sunscreen, such as Sunforgettable by Colorescience, provides broad spectrum coverage in a convenient, mess-free, brush-on formula. It’s especially good for protecting the scalp where you part your hair and has a unisex allure that men find appealing as well. Considering that wearing sunscreen everyday should be a no-brainer for everyone.
Getting the Most Out of Your Sunscreen
While many foundations and BB Creams also include sunscreen, especially octinoxate, skin care professionals have a word of caution about relying exclusively on foundation for sun protection. According to Dr. Alexiades, “You need 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon to properly protect your skin. When you squeeze the sunscreen into your hand, it should be about the diameter of a nickel.” So, double up and layer foundation over sunscreen.
Once you’ve applied your sunscreen, don’t mistakenly think you’re all set for the day. No matter what form of sun protection you use, you’ll need to reapply accordingly. Physical activity, swimming, and sweating all reduce physical sunscreen’s efficacy, and direct UV light is said to lower chemical sunscreen’s protection factor, so you’ll need to reapply no matter which version you prefer. “Sunscreens are deactivated in two hours, or they rub off,” Dr. Alexiades says; “therefore, you need to reapply it every two hours.” Period.
Our Beauty Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend the Eclado Oil Free Sunscreen as one of the top sunscreens.