Sun protection is the single biggest thing you can do to keep your skin looking more youthful. Did you know that the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 9 minutes? We’ll break down the numbers and jargon to help you find your perfect sunscreen, leaving you burn-free, pretty and protected from head to toe.
SPF By the Numbers
Dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 15, even higher for fairer skins. But what does that even mean? SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is an indicator for how long a sunscreen will filter the sun’s damaging UVB rays, which cause sunburns, but not UVA rays, which are more closely linked to tanning and deeper skin damage. For example, an SPF of 15 will protect your skin 15 times longer against sun reddening UVB rays than skin left unprotected. For this number to have meaning, it’s important to know how quickly your skin can redden. The fairest skin can burn in as little as 9 minutes when left unprotected on high UV days. Plus, an SPF of 15 will only filter 93% of UVB rays; an SPF of 50 will filter 98%. The reality is if you’re getting any sun color, your skin is being damaged.
Screening Your Sun Protection Choices
So how do you get the best protection? The key here is that both UVA and UVB rays damage your skin, increase your risk of skin cancer and add years to your appearance with the development of age spots and wrinkles. Even previous sun damage and age spots that were reversed (through either youth-restoring products or procedures) will reappear if you don’t take proper sun precautions in the future. So while a UVB-filtering, higher SPF is important, your best choice is really a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA rays. Heavier, more hydrating creams are better for drier skin. The new brush-on mineral powder formulas are ideal for more oily skin, leaving a subtle, skin-balancing tint. More sensitive skins may do better with physical sunblock formulas that contain Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide to block UVA and UVB rays. Spray formulas make it easier to reach hard to reach spots like your back. If you plan on swimming or it’s a particularly steamy day, a water-resistant variety is a better choice. Choosing the right sunscreen is crucial to keeping your skin looking healthy, burn-free and more youthful. And just like UV rays can damage your skin, it can also take a toll on your hair. Look for a good leave-in conditioner with sunscreen to moisturize your strands, add shine and keep your glorious color from fading.
SPF Makeup & Moisturizers
Many of today’s moisturizers, foundations & lip balms offer a little sun protection. It’s important to remember you may need additional sunscreen if the SPF is low. An SPF of 15 won’t be enough if you have fair skin, so you’ll want to layer a higher SPF sunscreen under your makeup. A formula specially created for the face is recommended to avoid breakouts and clogged pores.
Know Your Risks
People with fairer skin and lighter hair, especially redheads, are more sensitive to the sun. But even those with olive or darker skin and hair can be susceptible to the sun’s burning, damaging rays, too. Some medications and anti-aging treatments can also make you more prone to sun damage. UVA rays can even penetrate glass, like your car’s windows, especially the driver’s side, which is why we often see more age spots, sun damage and cancers on the left side of the body. Tanning beds deliver as much as 12 times the UVA radiation (the deep-tissue, photoaging kind) as the sun.
The Facts of Shelf Life
Just like makeup expires, so does sunscreen. And left in the heat in a beach bag, a sunscreen will degrade even further, exposing you to possible sun damage. So check your brand for expiration dates. For products without an expiration date, a standard rule of thumb is that a sunscreen’s shelf life is no more than three years, provided it hasn’t been exposed to high temperatures.
The Application Process
Sun protection is really a year-round concern, but we tend to think of it more as the weather heats up. But it’s important to keep in mind that you can get sun damage even on cold and cloudy days. For the best defense, apply sunscreen at home, a full half an hour before going out into the sun. One ounce (two tablespoons) is a good amount for creams and lotions. Don’t forget your scalp. If you’re not wearing a stylish wide-brimmed hat to protect your head, don’t forget to dab a little sunscreen along your part. Or even better, mineral powder formulas brush on for easy head-to-toe application and leave hair grease-free. The vital piece of the sunscreen puzzle is to remember to reapply. You should refresh your sunscreen at least every two hours, more frequently if you’re swimming or perspiring. It’s recommended that you reapply as soon as you get out of the water. Be sure not to miss your lips, ears, shoulders and feet. With proper application (and reapplication) you’ll keep your skin fresh, more youthful and damage-free this spring and summer!