Ask any dermatologist and she’ll tell you the number one thing you can do to keep your skin healthy, prevent skin cancer, and stop premature wrinkles is to block damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun. With a wide range of sun care options available, here’s what you need to know about SPF numbers, sunscreen ingredients and sun-savvy techniques.
Derms Demand SPF 30 & Broad Spectrum
Sunscreens are labeled with SPF numbers that let us know how long our sunscreen protects us from damaging, sunburn-producing UVB rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using an SPF 30 that blocks 97 percent of UVB rays. (Higher SPF numbers offer slightly more protection, but still need to be reapplied every few hours). To get protection from both UVB rays and UVA rays (which cause premature aging and wrinkles), look for products labeled “broad spectrum.”
Chemicals or Minerals?
Sunscreens filter out sun rays with either chemicals or minerals. Minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide offer strong protection, don’t break down in the sun and are safer than chemical sunscreens, says the Environmental Working Group. In particular the EWG says to avoid chemical sunscreens with oxybenzone, as it has been shown to be a hormone disrupter and skin allergen.
Rub it, Spray it, Use it!
No matter how they’re dispensed, sunscreens only work when they cover all of your skin. Lotions can feel more moisturizing, and sprays are easier to use on hard-to-reach places (or squirming kids). Supergoop’s SPF 50 Antioxidant Infused Sunscreen Day Cream is a powerful mineral-based cream with olive oil, pomegranate and green-tea antioxidants that protect against skin-damaging free radicals. Hang 10’s Mineral Sport Body Sunscreen SPF 30 is a good lightweight choice with maximum (80 minute) water resistance, along with soothing aloe and arnica extracts. For easy application, try Goddess Garden’s Natural Sunscreen Spray, SPF 30 complete with both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Slip, Slop, Slap, & Wrap
Another easy way to remember how to protect ourselves from sun damage is this catchy phrase from the American Cancer Society.
- Slip on a shirt. Clothing blocks ultraviolet rays to varying degrees and can be UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rated. A white cotton t-shirt has a UPF of about 7, while sun-protective clothing (made with sunblock-treated fabrics) comes with UPFs of 50+, providing up to 98 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays.
- Slop on sunscreen.
- What: SPF 30 or more, broad spectrum.
- When: Apply 30 minutes before going out on both sunny and cloudy days, and re-apply every 2 hours or after swimming.
- How: Use enough, about 1 oz (a shot glass full).
- Where: Everywhere. Ears, hands, feet and lips too (try jane iredale‘s LipDrink Balm SPF 15, with titanium dioxide).
- Slap on a hat. For the best protection, look for a hat with a UPF of 30 or 50, with a wide brim to protect your face, ears and neck.
- Wrap on sunglasses. Choose sunglasses labeled with 99-100 percent UVA/UVB protection and UV 400 (shields eyes from even the smallest rays). Be cool (and safe) and wear them whenever you’re outside, even on cloudy days.