How to choose the best sunscreen
Now that we all agree a daily sunblock is essential (consider it your No. 1 anti-ager), the question remains: “Which one?”
Confronted with an ever-growing sea of options, each touting a different SPF count and complicated-sounding ingredients, how do you determine which formula is right for you?
Here are our six lessons for choosing an SPF suncream.
Lesson One: It’s a Numbers Game
SPF is an acronym that stands for 'Sun Protection Factor' and is based on how long you can be in the sun without burning. We strongly recommend an SPF30 and an SPF50 is even better.
Always look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” — that means they protect against both UVA (cancer-causing) and UVB (sunburn-causing) rays. We recommend [and so does the American Academy of Dermatology] at least an SPF 30 or even higher. The average person applies less than half the amount of sunscreen recommended and therefore the SPF gets diluted out, so starting with a higher SPF to begin with can compensate somewhat for this.
Lesson Two: Physical vs. Chemical
Chemical sunscreens have ingredients that absorb UV light, turn it into heat and prevent it from passing into the skin. The physical ones have ingredients that create a layer on the skin and reflect UV light away from it.
Look at your sunscreen’s list of active ingredients. If you spy a slew of names ending in “enzone” (oxy, avo, et al.), it’s chemical, while components like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide mean it’s physical.
While many chemical blockers also contain physical ingredients, those with extremely sensitive skin or a condition like rosacea or eczema should opt for a 100 percent physical formula.
Lesson Three: How to apply!
When it comes to sunscreen efficacy, application matters immensely. Physical sunscreens are effective immediately upon application, while chemical ones require at least 20 minutes to fully absorb; that means always plan to apply before getting dressed to ensure full coverage (arms, shoulders) and ample time for absorption..
For the body, allot at least a shot-glass-size portion of sunscreen and, for the face, a tablespoon. Reapply every two hours (more if you’re swimming or sweating).
The type of sunscreen you use (cream, spray, stick) will impact how you apply it. On the body, sprays should be held one to two inches from the skin, sprayed until the area glistens and then rubbed in. Sticks should be applied back and forth for four passes on the same area. Never ever spray sunscreen directly on your face; spray it in your hand then apply to face.
Lesson Four: Double Action
There are a heap of products with added SPF in them like our LB Cream and it’s such an easy way to add sun protection into your already existing routine. Pick smarter and multi-purpose products so you don’t have to do all the work, they do.
Lesson Five: Take your vitamins
While they don't take the place of regular sunscreen, adding certain supplements into your diet can add an extra layer of protection.
Lesson Six: Full coverage
Areas that we tend to forget like the scalp, lips and right around the eyes are sensitive and quick to burn. The lower lip especially is at risk for UV damage and the development of skin cancers.
For the scalp, use an SPF gel or spray (or better yet, wear a hat).