Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Using Sunscreen
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Quick hypothetical situation: if you were to be marooned on a deserted island and forced to whittle down your skincare routine to one item, what would you pick? Some naive beauty newbies might reach for their trusty moisturizer, while others might agonize over choosing from their coterie of ampoules and serums. Seasoned skincare mavens, on the other hand, won’t even think twice. They know that the true superstar of any beauty routine boils down to three letters: S, P, F.
Yes, sunscreen has come a long way from that smelly pasty tube of goo from your childhood beach trips. Consider it the Swiss army knife of your skincare routine: it can moisturize, it protects you from the sun’s harmful rays, and it ensures that any active ingredients you apply during the day (such as BHA or Vitamin C) stay effective.
It is also, not for nothing, the best anti-aging product you have in your arsenal. When applied regularly and properly, it can protect you from sun damage such as wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and saggy skin. Intrigued? Keep on reading to learn how to make the most of your SPF!
What kind of sunscreen should I wear?
There are two main types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. The first uses physical filters such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which sit on top of your skin and blocks out the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunscreens work best for acne-prone skin types as they are less likely to clog pores—the only downside is it can sweat off easily and leave a white cast on deeper skin tones.
Worried about looking as ghostly as a Tim Burton character? Then chemical sunscreens may be what you’re looking for. They use sophisticated filters like oxybenzone that absorb UV rays and convert them into heat. The absence of physical filters means that it will apply clearer and spread more easily—however, think twice before going chemical on your next beach trip, as some filters like octisalate can be damaging to coral reefs.
How much SPF do I really need?
We recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 50. This will bring you sufficient sun protection, blocking out 98 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. And think twice before reaching for a sunblock with a higher number—just remember that according to the FDA, there really is no point in using anything above SPF 50.
And now, to answer an enduring beauty Q: how much sunscreen should you actually apply on your face each day? A great rule of thumb is the two-finger rule, where you draw two lines of SPF on your middle and pointer digits and apply that amount to your face and neck. Take a cue from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and remember: it’s always better to apply too much than too little.
Do I need to wear sunscreen indoors?
Great question. The answer? It depends. If you are dead set on not leaving your room for the rest of the day, and if said room has zero windows exposing you to zero sunlight, then you’re good. However, if you have even the slightest chance of sun exposure any time during your day, slather the SPF on. UVA and UVB rays can still pass through windows, so you’re better safe than sorry. (Don’t worry, you’ll thank yourself in 30 years!)
Should I reapply my SPF?
Technically, yes. The FDA recommends that you reapply your sunscreen every two hours, to ensure a thorough application throughout the day. Most sunscreens aren’t waterproof after all, and they’ll disintegrate upon contact with your sweat or oils.
However, we can totally relate if you’d hesitate to reapply a goopy cream over that full face of makeup that took you an hour to get just right. The solution? Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss recommends using a mineral sunscreen powder for reapplication throughout the day. It sops up any excess oil, keeps your makeup intact, and shields you against the sun—what’s not to love?
Ready to have protected fun in the sun? Shop our fave sunscreen picks below!