Everything You Need To Know About Sunscreen

We could write songs about our love-hate relationship with the sun. Like most incorrigible heartbreakers, its toasty embrace feels so good and leaves us yearning for more, yet we always end up devastated in the form of spots, sunburn and — wait, are those fine lines starting to surface?

In other words, you’ve got to think of the sun like that irresistible bad boy your friends warn you about: protect yourself or you’re going to get burned.

It so happens that UVA rays are responsible for more than 80 percent of skin aging, which is about 80 percent more than we care to endure. By now we should all know better, but there are certain truths that still remain nebulous.

Here’s what the pros know:

1. As far as we’re concerned, it’s never too late to protect your skin by including a broad spectrum sunscreen in your daily beauty plan. Wear an SPF of at least 15 every day, all year long (yes, even in cloudy weather and rain). Even through glass, the sun’s rays sneakily penetrate the skin down to the dermis. You can run, but unless you live in a bubble made of coconut-scented Coppertone, you can’t hide.

2. If you’re going to be frolicking in the great outdoors, you’ll need an SPF of at least 30. (If you watched the movie Wild, you’ll notice Reese Witherspoon never put on sunscreen… don’t try that little stunt at home). When in doubt, go with a 45 or 50 for extra insurance. Never trust your makeup to protect you, because it would take slathering on seven times the amount you normally wear to make it effective — and pancake face is never a good look.

3. How much sunscreen is enough? In general, you should be applying one ounce of sunscreen to your entire body, which is the equivalent of a full shot glass. If your body is longer or more robust than average, more is always better. For your face, you’ll want to use about a generous teaspoon.

4. To keep your hands from looking older than your face, keep a bottle of sunscreen with you at all times (i.e. in the car or in your Purse) to prevent age spots. We love SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF35, which packs a punch of SPF 30 and spot-reducing vitamin C. It’s always good to have sunscreen handy, so keep a few samples from your dermatologist in your glove compartment, purse, in your desk at work, and anywhere else you might need them. Start living by the Girl Scout’s motto and always be prepared. You never know when you’re going to want an impromptu picnic.

5. After applying sunscreen allow for a good 20 minutes before setting foot in the sun. If you don’t, you might as well be wearing no sunscreen at all for that first half-hour you’re outdoors. Reapply every two hours (and more often than that if you’ll be splashing around in the water). If your sunscreen is marked ‘water resistant’ it will last for an upwards of 80 minutes, but remember ‘water resistant’ does not mean ‘waterproof.’ Be wary that spray formulas are typically weaker than lotions, so be on the lookout for ‘continuous spray’ on the label and always apply two coats. And replace your sunscreen every summer since the active ingredients can expire and lose their potency.

6. For beauty’s sake, don’t forget to apply protection to your ears, lips, scalp, eyelids and the back of your neck. The lower lip is particularly prone to skin cancer. Not to mention the lines and wrinkles, which both contribute to a permanently puckered look.

7. Long-sleeve cotton shirts don’t adequately protect you from the sun, especially if they get drenched — which may explain the mysterious smattering of freckles on your shoulders. But never fear, get yourself a surfer-approved Cynthia Rowley long-sleeved rash guard with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Don’t you just love it when high fashion meets function? Speaking of which, you may also want to invest in some oversized Oliver Peoples sunglasses to ward off crow’s feet.

8. Don’t forget your hair. Sun damage can turn the top layer frizzy and brittle, weaken the keratin proteins and make your expensive salon color fade. Shea butter helps moisturize dry tresses and acts like a natural sunscreen, but that’s no substitute for a UV-protecting hair mist. Your mandatory sun hat should also have a wide brim and be crafted from tightly woven material with a built-in SPF factor. Whereas if you wear a baseball cap, prepare to suffer the consequences along the sides of your face where the sun hits.

Finally, always bear in mind that UV rays reflect off the ground and water, so even the best armor can’t offer 100 percent protection. When in doubt, get out of the sun.

Written by: Stephanie Simons