Sunscreen 101: What you need to know

Are you ready to be in the sun this summer?

With Memorial Day upon us and the unofficial kick-off of summer, it’s important to make sure your SPF routine is summer-ready.  Not only is sunscreen key in your antiaging routine (see my anti-aging tips here), but it is also your weapon against skin cancer, which is on the rise.  Here are some facts that are concerning:

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.*
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.*
  • Also, the risk of skin cancer doubles if a person has had 5 or more sunburns in their lifetime or even one severe sunburn as a child.**

Ok, so this is pretty scary.  What do you need to know when selecting a sunscreen?  Products should have a minimum of SPF 30 and should protect against BOTH UVA and UVB rays.  If you don’t see the words “broad spectrum” on the label, then it doesn’t protect from both.  UVA rays cause premature aging, hyperpigmentation, broken capillaries, and wrinkling.  UVB rays cause sunburn.  Both are contributors to skin cancer.

UV rays pass through clouds and window glass – that is why sunscreen is a MUST every day no matter what the season or the weather!  Also, UV rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm so be extra diligent during those times of day.

Knowing what to look for in a sunscreen is key to being safe in the sun!

What is physical vs. chemical sunscreen and which should I use?

OK, let me break it down.  Bottom line, you need to use sunscreen and need to find one that works well with your skin type.  Both types have pros and cons, and there isn’t any evidence that one is better than the other, as long as you are using it consistently and reapplying often.  (Remember to reapply every 2 hours – don’t forget around your eyes and lips.)

Also there is not evidence that the higher the SPF the better.  Most experts recommend using a minimum of SPF 30 up to 50 with broad spectrum protection.  Really though, anything higher than 30 does not really provide that much more protection, maybe 1-2% more than SPF 30 does.

Physical sunscreens have mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and sit on top of your skin to deflect the sun’s rays.

Pros and Cons-

Physical sunscreens can be better for those with sensitive or acne prone skin; some formulas can be very thick or leave a white cast which can be a con for those with darker skin tones.  However, sunscreen products have come a long way and many are not as thick as in years past.  Another pro is that once applied the product begins working and you can go in the sun.

One product I love that is a physical sunscreen is CeraVe Face Lotion SPF 50.  It is for the face and looks great under makeup!  It also has some other good for you skin ingredients like ceramides and niacinamide, and is pretty inexpensive.  Another product I use to touch up during the day without messing up my makeup is Brush on Block.  It is powder but comes in a portable stick so it’s great to bring to work, the beach or wherever you are going!

Chemical sunscreens have ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate or avobenzone and penetrate into your skin, absorbing the UV rays, changing them to heat and then releasing that heat.

Pros and Cons-

Chemical sunscreens can be more irritating to certain skin types and also, because they penetrate into the skin, it is recommended that you wait at least 20 minutes for the product to sink in before sun exposure.

One chemical sunscreen moisturizer I love is the L’BRI Oil-Free Moisturizer with SPF 32.  L’BRI is an American company that uses all natural ingredients and features aloe as a main ingredient in its products.  This moisturizer feels great on my skin and leaves a natural glow.

Final thoughts

No matter what, find an SPF product that works for you and use it!  Don’t just use it when you are going to the beach, but every day.  And, don’t just apply in the morning and forget about it the rest of the day!  It needs to be reapplied every couple of hours or after you’ve sweat or gone swimming.  If you are using makeup with SPF in it, great but please don’t rely only on that for your protection.  Happy summer, everyone!

Please note that some of the links in this article are affiliate links.  If you purchase any of those products, I receive a small commission.  This is at no additional cost to you.  I appreciate your support of this blog if you do decide to try some of the products!

*Cancer Facts and Figures 2017. American Cancer Society.  http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-048738.pdf.

**Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians 9th Edition.

4 Replies to “Sunscreen 101: What you need to know”

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I think we all assume we know a lot about sunscreen but there is always something new to learn. I know I learned a lot just researching for this article. Here’s to safe skin this summer!

  1. I like that you emphasized the numerous health benefits of sunscreen and not only the cosmetic reasons for using one. I also admire that guests can sign up for a free list of great products. Awesome!

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