You weren’t born yesterday, so you already know that the sun is bad for you.
Sure, it facilitates life on earth, but it also wreaks hyperpigmentation-havoc on your skin among other serious effects like skin cancer and damages your collagen and elastin bundles leading to premature wrinkles and aging. And if the sun is the enemy in this little metaphor, consider sunscreen to be the soldier that shields you and battles on your behalf against harmful UV rays.
While SPF is a hero for sure, it can only really protect you from the aforementioned skin horrors if you are using it correctly. And most skin experts agree, people despite their best intentions continue to make big mistakes when it comes to correctly using and applying sunscreen. Because the efficacy of sunscreens is directly related to how they are used, this is a big deal.
So, what are the common blunders? So glad you asked.
It’s great you remember to put sunscreen on in the morning, however by the time the sun goes down at night, your one application in the morning has totally worn off. If you are in the sun, you need to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
IGNORING UVA PROTECTION = MORE DAMAGE TO SKIN:
Research has shown that while UVA rays don’t cause sunburn, they penetrate deeply into skin and cause wrinkles. US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 90% of skin changes associated with aging are really caused by a lifetime’s exposure to UVA rays. There is no rating to tell you how good a sunscreen is at blocking UVA rays.
So, when it comes to UVA protection, you need to pay attention to the ingredients. Look for a sunscreen that contains at least one of the following: ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide. Any of those should do the trick.
GRASPING THE UVB PROTECTION SPF CONUNDRUM – 15 OR HIGHER?
The SPF factor rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays. If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, SPF 15 multiplies that by a factor of 15, meaning you could go 150 minutes before burning. For the vast majority of people, SPF 15 is fine.
Understand the high SPF myth and keep in mind that the higher the SPF, the smaller the increased benefit. Contrary to what you might think, SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF 15. While SPF 15 filters out 93% of UVB, SPF 30 filters out 97%, only a slight improvement.
Using two products, say your moisturizer and foundation with sunblock in them, is fine, but thinking their SPF factors combine to be one larger, more powerful SPF is not.
Women think that the SPF 15 in their makeup plus their SPF40 in their sunscreen equals a 55, which is just not true. In reality, the most you are getting is the highest level you apply, and that’s it.
RELYING ON SPF IN MAKEUP:
Sunblock in makeup is usually enough to prevent a burn when used properly, but it isn’t enough to prevent all the harmful rays that age the skin and cause skin cancer. Makeup products with SPF are usually between SPF 5 and 15, which is not appropriate for direct sun exposure.
I always encourage everyone to wear a minimum of SPF 15 when exposed to the sun, and the higher the better! Makeup is also not applied everywhere that sunscreen should be, and we often miss the neck, ears and hairline.
FINDING THE APPROPRIATE SUNSCREEN:
The ideal sunscreen should be efficacious, aesthetically elegant, photo-stable, long lasting & preferably Oxybenzone free. These qualities would improve wearing compliance and prevent premature photo-aging. Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection with SPF 15.
If you have a family history of skin cancer, very fair or sensitive skin, go for SPF 30 or higher. Ingredients with broad-spectrum protection include benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX).