We asked Dr. Steven Rotter, board-certified dermatologist, for his insight into some sun protection slip-ups to avoid.
While you might think of sun protection as something that goes on your body right before you leave the house, if you're putting sunscreen on after your makeup, it won't be able to do its job. "Sunscreen needs to go on before any makeup," affirms Rotter. "Sunscreen must be absorbed into the skin, and that absorption will be blocked by foundation and other makeup," he explains. Keep a bottle of sunscreen on your bathroom counter or by your makeup bag so you remember to apply it first.
People have been told that anything with an SPF above 15 is not necessary, but that's not true, warns Rotter. "While over 90 per cent of UVB rays are blocked with a 15 SPF in studies, actual users only apply half of the amount of the test subjects," he explains. "So this means you need a product with an SPF of 30 to get the benefit of a 15." Rotter recommends an SPF of 45 for most people to have more protection.
Women who have a tan often think that because they have some colour, they don't need to be as diligent about sun protection, but this is a sunscreen no-no. "The problem is they do not reapply often enough. With a product of SPF 45, the women of average skin tone need to reapply every 90 minutes or after getting wet, so there is no such thing as a 'safe' tan," warns Rotter. "A tan is a sign of sun damage that will age the skin."
Hitting the tanning bed before the beach to get a "base" tan? That won't protect you from sun damage. "A tan is your body trying to stimulate melanin production to protect from further sun damage. A tan can only give an SPF of about four, but you can get an SPF of 100 right out of a bottle," says Rotter. "If you want to look tan, use a self-tanner. But also remember that tanning products do not provide sun protection, so you still need to protect yourself."
If you use alpha-hydroxy acids or get resurfacing procedures such as microdermabrasion or chemical or laser peels, your skin more susceptible to irritation or allergy from chemicals in sunscreens, says Rotter. "For these women, I recommend a chemical-free sunscreen, such as zinc oxide," he advises. "Zinc oxide is available in clear ointments and does not have to be the white paste that lifeguards were so fond of."
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