Our resident derm on what to look out for when choosing the ideal sun protection for your skin.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Sunshine might work wonders for the soul, but can be harsh on the skin. So, how do you get your glow on and keep yourself protected? Dr. Renée is back with the guidance you need to preserve your skin and love for the sun, all year-round. Our board certified dermatologist is giving you the rundown on all things SPF— including what it does and how to choose the protection that’s right for you.
WHY IS SUNSCREEN IMPORTANT FOR THE SKIN?
Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth: UVA and UVB rays. Overexposure to either can lead to skin cancer. Each of these rays have different behavior in terms of skin health: UVA rays or the “aging rays” can prematurely age your skin, cause wrinkles and age spots, plus it can pass through window glass. In the United States, the incidence of skin cancer is higher on the left side of the face due to the UVA penetration through the driver’s side car window. UVB rays are considered the “burning rays” and are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.
Proper protection from the sun will make the greatest difference in how someone ages and looks in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and beyond. This is the best advice I give out of all the skin care advice I hash out daily: try to avoid or limit sun exposure to UV light or UV radiation since this is the primary cause of skin cancer, exterior skin aging, uneven pigmentation, and wrinkling of the skin. Seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection as well as applying sunscreen are all important behaviors to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen products are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, and scientific evidence supports the benefits of using sunscreen to minimize short-term and long-term damage to the skin from the sun’s rays.
DOES A HIGH SPF PROTECT THE SKIN BETTER?
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least a 30, which blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher number SPF blocks slightly more of the sun’s rays, but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s UVB rays.
A high number SPF lasts the same amount of time as a low number SPF product. (Translation? A high number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without re-application). Sunscreen should be reapplied approximately every 80 minutes to two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
WHAT TYPE OF SUNSCREEN SHOULD I USE?
The kind of sunscreen you use is a matter of personal choice and may vary depending on the area of the body you want to protect. Creams are best for dry skin and for the face. Gels are good for hairy areas such as the scalp or male chest. Sticks are good to use around the eyes. Sprays are sometimes preferred by parents as they are easy to apply to children. If you have acne prone skin, you may want to use an oil free sunscreen. Some people prefer to use chemical sunscreens and some prefer mineral sunscreens. The best type of sunscreen is the one you will use again and again. Just make sure it offers broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, has an SPF of 30 or higher, and is water resistant. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen.
IS PROTECTING THE SKIN FROM SUN ONLY IMPORTANT IN THE SUMMER MONTHS?
No! Even in overcast conditions, 80% of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can still get through. UVA are the longer, stronger “aging rays” of the sun and can make it to your skin on cloudy days. UVB rays that burn the skin tend to vary in intensity depending on the season and are greater on sunny days.
ARE SPF MOISTURIZERS AND SUNSCREEN THE SAME THING?
SPF moisturizers are not the same thing as sunscreen. If you have dry skin and need hydration, providing moisture while protecting it from sun rays will help keep your skin barrier healthy. The combination, while convenient, still has to be reapplied every two hours, especially when you are outdoors. A SPF moisturizer works as long as it contains broad spectrum coverage, meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. SPF itself only relates to blocking UVB rays.
WHERE DOES SUNSCREEN FIT IN A SKINCARE RITUAL?
Sunscreens are formulated with protective ingredients and are intended to be placed last in your regimen, after your moisturizer. Trying to DIY a sunscreen-moisturizer combination on your own risks inactivating ingredients in both products and this can lead to sun damage. There are two types of agents that go into a sunscreen: a chemical sunscreen, such as avobenzone, absorbs the sun’s rays and releases it in the form of heat. (They act like a sponge.) The other components are physical sunscreens, like zinc oxide. (These work like a shield and create a barrier on your skin to block the sun.) Following an ordered ritual to keep these agents active and your skin protected. My recommended ritual: