The most powerful tool in any skincare routine is sunscreen. SPF in your foundation won’t cut it. Here are the best tips on how to apply sunscreen
Is your main skincare objective to prolong or address the visible signs of skin aging? You need sunscreen.
Is your main skincare goal to wane hyperpigmentation for a more even skin tone? You need sunscreen.
Is your main skincare goal to diminish breakouts? You still need sunscreen if you want to prevent the dark spots that pimples can leave behind.
Is your main skincare goal to evade developing skin cancer? You one hundred percent definitely need sunscreen!
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) indicates how long UVB radiation would take to cause sunburn, compared to the time it would take for you to burn without it. So if your skin typically burns after an hour in the sun, SPF 15 sunscreen will in theory allow you to spend 15 hours in the sun without burning. As long as you’re using it liberally all over exposed skin and reapplying it after a couple of hours of sun exposure.
SPF: How High is High Enough?
Go into the sunscreen aisle of any drugstore, and you’ll see a variety of available SPFs—from as low as SPF 8 to as high as SPF 100. How high is high enough?
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 generously every day and boosting to a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 for swimming and other “extended outdoor activity.” That is a minimum recommendation, however. You may find that your skin continues to redden or develop dark spots unless you increase your SPF. Personally, I only use sunscreens with an SPF of 45 or above for everyday.
As the SPF of a sunscreen product increases, its cosmetic charm often decreases. Higher SPF formulations are more likely to look chalky or feel heavy, due to the higher concentrations of UV filters they contain. Ultimately, I recommend choosing the highest protection sunscreen that you can comfortably wear in the recommended quantities. Being able to actually use the product properly is key to benefiting from it.
UVA radiation has a longer wavelength than UVB. UVB radiation damages the upper layers of skin; UVA radiation penetrates more acutely, causing DNA damage at the inner layers of skin. UVA radiation leads to tanning (which is a defensive response to sun damage), dark spots, and the drastic and outward skin aging.
In the US, UVA protection is denoted simply by the label “broad spectrum,” which doesn’t mean much. A broad spectrum sunscreen might provide considerable UVA protection, or it might only provide the minimum effective UVA protection needed to earn the broad spectrum designation.
How to Apply Sunscreen (and when to reapply) —
If you measure out any lotion with a measuring spoon, you’ll see it’s quite a lot of product. That’s the main reason I don’t recommend relying on the SPF in makeup or moisturizer for UV protection—it would be impossible to use that much of those products without looking absolutely foolish. That’s also why the cosmetic elegance of your sunscreen is so important. Find a sunscreen that looks and feels good on your skin when applied in these very generous quantities.
Once you do, apply it liberally every day, rain or shine, if you’re going to leave the house. Most UV damage is not caused by the yearly trip to the beach, but by ancillary sun exposure accumulating throughout the years. Your daily walk to the car or from the office to your regular lunch spot; your afternoon stroll with the dog. UVA in particular infiltrates through the clouds. Maintaining daily protection is the best thing you can do for your skin.
It’s often recommended to reapply sunscreen after two hours of sun exposure, due to the notion that UV filters (particularly chemical filters) diminish and lose their effectiveness within that short time frame. Many sunscreens these days are photostable (able to withstand the effects of UV exposure better, so it keeps its level of protection) to remain effective even after two hours of sun exposure, but reapplication is still a good idea if you’ve sweated, gotten wet, or otherwise risked physically wiping off your sunscreen. Dab on more as thoroughly as you can, especially on high-exposure zones like cheekbones and the bridge of your nose.
And finally, once you’ve gotten a look at how much ¼ tsp is, don’t worry too much about getting exactly the right amount on your face. Just be generous. Apply approximately that much, and don’t let fears of not doing it perfectly stop you from knowing that you’re doing it well.