HOW AND WHEN YOU APPLY SUNSCREEN IS IMPORTANT !
Sun protection is so important and we will repeating as often as we can: Daily exposure to UV light without protection, even for a minute, is the single worst thing you can do to your skin. Research has made it clear that repeated, unprotected sun exposure, getting sunburned, or repeatedly getting tan causes DNA damage that triggers skin cells to mutate.
Over the years and in the absence of sun protection and sun-smart behavior, these mutations often turn into skin cancers.
Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid skin cancer, years of unprotected sun exposure or, worse, deliberate tanning either from the sun or a tanning bed, puts your skin on the fast track to aging. You’ll see wrinkles, sagging, brown spots, texture changes, large or misshapen pores, and reduced skin healing (including from acne breakouts) far sooner than those who are diligent about protecting their skin from UV light.
We emphasize “UV light” because, although the sun emits other wavelengths of light as well, UV light is what really causes sun damage to skin, even on cloudy or overcast days. In other words, sun damage isn’t only a threat when the sun is shining; it’s a threat whenever and wherever you see daylight. And the damage starts happening the first minute your skin sees daylight! That research shocked even us. Protecting skin every day of the year, rain, snow, or shine is critically important if your goal is to have healthy,
young-looking skin for as long as possible.
The problem is that the topic of sunscreens and all the details surrounding their use has become a confusing mess of incomplete or misleading information
How and when you apply sunscreen is important
Using a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen and knowing how to apply it is a complicated, confusing, and controversial issue, and we certainly can understand if you’re wondering what to do. This is especially true about the recommendation to reapply sunscreen every two hours—no matter what! This seems ridiculously inconvenient, to say the least. If you’re wearing makeup, are you supposed to wash it all oﬀ, reapply sunscreen, and then redo your makeup every two hours throughout the day? Who has time for all that?! We
straighten that out below.
There’s no question that wearing sunscreen daily, 365 days a year, minimizes signs of premature aging. Whether you decide to be sun smart is up to you, we know lots of you still feel that a summer or vacation tan is a must or that getting “just a little tan” is fne, but please at least consider the information below because, and we’re not exaggerating, your skin’s life depends on it.
The following research-supported facts will help you make sense of sunscreen, so you can get the best protection from the sun’s harmful rays:
- “SPF,” which stands for Sun Protection Factor, is an indicator of the length of time that your skin can be exposed to sunlight without turning pink (meaning your skin will start burning) when wearing an SPF-rated product.
- Although using a product rated SPF 15 is acceptable, the latest research suggests that higher SPF ratings are far more desirable because they provide better protection. Look for sunscreens rated SPF 30 or greater, and/or consider layering SPF products for enhanced anti-aging protection.
- The two types of UV rays that damage skin are UVA and UVB. UVA rays are far more damaging because they’re present all day long, year-round, and penetrate deeper into the skin than the shorter wavelength UVB rays. UVB rays are present with visible sunlight and can cause sunburn, while UVA rays promote tanning. UVB rays are strongest in sunny climates and between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. UVA rays maintain a consistent intensity during daylight hours, throughout the entire year.
- Sunscreens labeled as providing “broad-spectrum” protection should protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
- All sunscreens with an SPF rating provide reliable UVB protection, as there are numerous UVB flters approved for use in sun-protection products.
The best active ingredients for reliable UVA protection are titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, ecamsule (Mexoryl SX), and Tinosorb (which may be listed as methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol)
- You must apply sunscreen liberally to obtain the beneft of the SPF number on the label. Unfortunately, most people don’t apply sunscreen liberally and that is detrimental for their skin. This common mistake might lead you to believe that the sunscreen you applied isn’t eﬀective.
What about the recommendation you often see about reapplying sunscreen every two hours even if you’re not swimming or sweating? That’s a great question, with a somewhat complicated answer—but hang in there and we know you’ll get it.
Does the sunscreen you apply in the morning still work in the late afternoon, following a day at the ofce or at school? The answer is yes, depending on how much time you spend outdoors because the sunscreen actives break down in response to direct exposure to daylight, not in response to the passage of time during a single day.
On an average day (if you’re in an ofce or otherwise indoors), your morning application of sunscreen is still going to provide sufcient UV protectio on your way home, assuming you applied a liberal amount of an SPF 30 (or greater) in the morning.
If you spend the majority of your day outdoors, then the recommendation is to reapply every two hours, especially if you’re perspiring or swimming. This recommendation to reapply every two hours is based on the following :
Most people don’t apply sunscreen liberally, and if you don’t you won’t get the SPF protection rating shown on the label. If you’re one of those people who does not apply sunscreen liberally, then the apply-everytwo-hours guideline makes sense, however impractical it may seem. The thinking goes like this: If you aren’t good about applying sunscreen liberally, then reapplying every two hours after direct daylight exposure will add up to liberal application because of the extra layers of sunscreen you’re putting on.
- How much to apply: There are many measurements given to help you fgure out how much sunscreen to use, but in reality how much to use depends completely on the size of the area you’re covering. What we like to suggest is to smooth a layer of sunscreen over the skin that will be exposed to the sun so you can see it and then gently smooth it into skin and let it absorb. And, yes, we understand that it may feel a bit unpleasant until it is absorbed, but the protection it aﬀords is worth this temporary feeling. Don’t forget your chest, arms, and hands (or any other areas of exposed skin)!
- How often to apply: We know this one is repetitious, but we’re on a mission to ensure the best skin of your life starts now, and this is the frst rule to make sure that happens. Aside from everyday use (no exceptions), a single application each morning with a product rated SPF 30 or greater will keep you protected for a normal workday (indoors), a walk to lunch, and the drive home. If you spend more than three or four hours in direct sunlight during the day, it’s a good idea to reapply your sunscreen—and, yes, that means redoing your makeup, which is why we advise touching up with
a pressed powder rated SPF 15 or greater.
- If you sweat profusely (think outdoor exercise or what can happen on a really humid day) or if you wash or sanitize your hands, swim, or get wet, you must reapply your sunscreen regardless of the SPF number on the product.
If the sunscreen is labeled “very water resistant,” you get about 80 minutes of protection while perspiring or swimming. If the label states “water-resistant,” you get only about 40 minutes of protection if you get wet.But don’t forget, even if you use those types of sunscreens, you’ll be rubbing them oﬀ when toweling dry, so in that scenario, be sure to reapply.
As you’ve seen, the rules for applying and reapplying sunscreen if you’re getting wet or sweating are entirely diﬀerent from the rules if you stay dry and spend only limited time outside.
It’s also critical to understand that being inside doesn’t mean your skin is protected from sun exposure. If you’re sitting next to a window, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get sunburned because almost all windows protect you from UVB rays, the rays that cause burning. However, unless the window has special UVA shielding, your skin will NOT be protected from the sun’s UVA rays because these rays penetrate windows. This is one of the factors you must take into consideration when deciding how often to reapply your sunscreen, or be sure you’re wearing sunscreens with higher SPF.
You can also consider the following:
- Find out if the windows flter both UVB and UVA rays.
- Use blinds to control the amount of daylight that enters your work space.
- Add a UV-fltering flm to your ofce window; these flms are sold in most major hardware stores and are easy to apply.
Bottom line: While understanding sunscreen isn’t necessarily easy, if you remember to liberally apply a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily as the last step of your skincare routine that is a great start. After that, the next step is to be sure you use a water-resistant sunscreen if you’ll be swimming or sweating and to reapply it every 40 to 80 minutes (which is determined by whether it is water-resistant or very water-resistant) when sweating or swimming. You also need to reapply regular sunscreen after every few consecutive hours of direct daylight exposure and anytime you towel oﬀ.
When we say the best skin of your life starts here, this is how it begins— with daily, diligent sun protection, your skin will look and act younger. You’ll also reduce the risk and presence of brown spots, degree of sagging skin, formation of deep wrinkles, and impairment of skin’s healing. Most important, it will reduce your risk of skin cancer!
Following is a list of sunscreens with diﬀerent textures that we’re particularly fond of. All provide broad-spectrum protection and also include other beneficial ingredients like antioxidants. In addition, the brands mentioned tend to produce consistently good SPF products, whether they are facial moisturizers with sun protection or “regular” sunscreens for the body.
» Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen Protection, Fragrance Free SPF 30 ($19.82)
» Clinique Sun Broad Spectrum SPF 30 or SPF 50 Body Cream ($40.28)
» KINeSYS SPF 30 Alcohol-Free Sunscreen with Mango ($7.35)
» MD SolarSciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen ($30)
» Olay Regenerist Regenerating Lotion with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($25)
» Replenix Sheer Physical Sunscreen Cream SPF 50 ($18)
» Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($33)
» Paula’s Choice Resist Youth Extending Daily Fluid SPF 50 ($37)
» Paula’s Choice Sunscreen Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 43 ($25)
» Yes to Cucumbers Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 Stick ($12.59)