Sun protection is the single most most important thing that we can do to prevent extrinsic aging. Genetics and the passage of time only accounts for 10-15% percent of aging. The sun accounts for a very large chunk of the remaining 85-90% of aging caused by avoidable factors. However, picking out the right sunscreen for you can be a daunting task. Fear no more. I am here to tell you the top 10 things you need to know in order to choose the right sunscreen for you.
1.There’s no such thing as waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen.
I am so beyond glad that the FDA has shut this down. How can they claim waterproof or sweat-proof? They don’t know how long you were in the water or sweating. Now it should claim sweat or water resistant and have a number of minutes. Example: Elta MD Sport SPF 50 displays water-resistant for up to 80 Minutes but still recommends reapplying every 2-3 hours.
2. Car windows and glass do not block UVA (aging) rays.
Car windows and glass prevent the UVB rays from affecting your skin. UVB rays burn our skin if unprotected. Skin burns caused by the sun increase your risk of skin cancer. UVA rays age us prematurely. To protect yourself, even just driving to or from work, I suggest an SPF of 15 or higher daily.
3. Which is better: Chemical Sunscreens or Physical Sunscreens?
Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients, usually titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UV rays away from the skin. Usually these physical “blockers” prevent the penetration of both UVA and UVB rays.
-Cons: Mineral based can give off a white look to the applied area, it’s usually thicker than chemical sunscreen and can sweat or wash of in water more easily.
Chemical sunscreens contain compounds, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, which create a chemical reaction and work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. They are often referred to as chemical absorbers.
-Cons: Because it is absorbed into the body and heated up it can darken and increase brown spots, the chemicals can irritate sensitive skin and it has to be applied 20 minutes prior to sun exposure.
4. SPF claims 50+ are bogus.
Most people are under the perception that if you are buying an SPF 100 that it is 3x better than SPF 30 and that is just not the case. An SPF of 15 blocks about 93% of the suns rays. SPF 30 blocks about 97% of rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of the suns rays. Anything over 50 SPF is a microscopic increase from SPF 50 and not worth the money. It is more important to buy a sunscreen that is a broad-spectrum SPF 30 from a medical brand (proven that it contains the SPF it claims) than it is to buy an over the counter SPF 100+ that you do not know if it has been verified.
5. Darker skin is more protected from the sun.
Yep, it’s true. Darker skin has a built-in protection from the sun. The melanin in darker skin works as a defense mechanism from the sun. However, that does not mean darker Fitzpatrick types do not need to wear sunscreen. It means that they are less likely than a lighter person to receive a burn. So all my whiter than white sisters out there, we have GOT to wear sunscreen daily. Please note: darker skin types are not immune from skin cancer. It is in your best interest to use daily protection too. You just might be able to get away with SPF 15 where I need 30+.
6. You need to apply 1 oz of sunscreen to the exposed area for full protection.
Dermatologists recommend that you apply approximately 1 oz of sunscreen to the exposed are to obtain full protection from the sun. To visualize, that is about a shot glass amount of sunscreen. Are you under applying? You may need to adjust that number due to body size.
7. Your scalp needs protection too.
Just because you have hair does not mean your scalp is fully protected from sunburns. Has anyone else had a scalp burn? I have, they are the worst. You can protect your scalp best with a hat or sunscreen. If you have thick hair you may just need to apply the sunscreen to your hair line and part. There are some nice gel-based sunscreens that would be perfect for the scalp. If you have thinning hair you may want to stick to a hat of some sort because applying sunscreen generously enough to get full coverage would be quite difficult.
8. Sunscreen has to be reapplied.
There is no such thing as a sunscreen that only has to be reapplied once. Dr Cameron Rokhsar is quick to dismiss this myth as “hyped up marketing,” with absolutely no element of truth. Physical sunscreens are too prone to washing off with water and sweat they need to be reapplied at least every 2-4 hours depending on the instructions.
9. The new drinkable sunscreen trend is a load of B.S.
As these new ‘drinkable sunscreens’ make headlines, doctors remain skeptical without scientific proof. Furthermore there is pending litigation from the Iowa Attorney General against Colorado-based companies Osmosis and Harmonized Water, for deceiving Iowa consumers by advertising water with properties it did not have. Read more about that HERE.
10. Always choose broad spectrum.
Not choosing broad spectrum sunscreen would be like choosing peanut butter without jelly, or a margarita without tequila. Yes you could have one without the other, but it seems kind of pointless right? Why would you only want to protect yourself from the aging rays but let the burning rays through that can cause cancer, and vice versa. Always choose broad spectrum so that you are fully protected from both the damaging UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.
With summertime right around the corner I want all of you to be fully informed so that you can make the right choice for your sun protection. I would be more than happy to answer any questions for you as I am a licensed Aesthetician and skin care specialist. As always, I’d love to hear from you guys if you have a question you would like to see answered in the ‘Ask Nicole’ section. Feel free to post in the comments below or email me here.