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There’s no doubt about it — the earth is hotter than it’s ever been. You can probably thank climate change for that, along with the fact that the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth’s surface has continued to increased decade after decade. Since unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and immune system, what does this mean for our sun protection?
“Changes in the ozone and tiny microscopic particles in the atmosphere from pollution are causing slow, invisible damage to the skin. When pollutants are exposed to UVA rays from the sun, they break down, creating secondary by-products,” Elizabeth Weiler, Director of Education and Development at OVME Aesthetics tells SheKnows. “These secondary by-products of pollution are even more toxic than the primary damage they cause. They can actually stimulate the mitochondria in your skin cells to create free radicals and oxidative stress, oxidizing proteins, lipids, and even DNA! This can lead to accelerated deep skin damage, wrinkles, and discoloration.”
These days, says Nazarian, the description for that “perfect sunscreen” is a lot lengthier than before. “It needs to be light-weight to prevent trapping of heat on the super-hot weather days (which thanks to climate change are becoming more commonplace); It needs to block UVB to prevent deadly and disfiguring skin cancers. It needs to account for the free-radical damage that ultraviolet A rays can cause, and the additional stressors from pollution, and visible light that can cause premature aging – thank you, laptops, phones, and office lights!”
So what do you need to look out for in sunscreen?
“Thirty or forty years ago, people only used SPF designed to protect against UVB. Why? Because the effects of UVB were visible, pretty immediate, and most of the time, painful,” Weiler says. “We didn’t know yet that UVA was silently causing slower, deeper damage in the background. So while the SPF rating on the bottle is important, it’s only a measure of UVB protection — and not UVA. This means that looking for a product with ‘broad-spectrum’ protection is arguably more important.”
SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield
Because pollution plus UVA equals oxidative stresses in our skin, according to Weiler, she also recommends looking for a product with antioxidants whenever possible: “Antioxidants can help neutralize some of the damaging effects of the byproducts created when UV and pollution meet.”
LaRoche Posay Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 50
What’s the deal with SPF, anyway?
According to Dr. Anna Chacon, MD FAA a board-certified dermatologist, SPF or the sun protection factor is the measure of how much radiation is needed to cause sunburn.
”The higher the SPF, the lower the chance of sunburn,” she says “One common misconception is that SPF relates to the time of sun exposure. Some consumers believe that SPF 15 would protect them from sunburn for 15 hours. This is not true, as the SPF relates to the amount of sun exposure not the time of sun exposure. I recommend using an SPF of at least 30 — which blocks 97 percent of UVB rays.”
To combat those UVBs, Chacon recommends the following:
“Another sunscreen from EltaMD, the UV Clear Broad-spectrum SPF 46, works best for acne-prone or sensitive skin.”
“Aside from being an effective sunscreen, the La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen
is also known to be affordable too! This sunscreen comes up to an SPF level of 50 and is suitable for both the face and body. This sun protectant can also go on easily with makeup since it is very lightweight and has a matte finish.”
ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Sunscreen SPF 50+
“This Spanish brand is known to be recommended by dermatologists and skin experts. This mineral sunscreen is known to be the best one for the face because of its lightweight application. Aside from its SPF, the ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Sunscreen
is also applauded for the antioxidants, vitamin E, and DNA-repair enzymes that have been added to the formulation. These additional benefits are effective in combating previous sun damage which is very helpful for the face knowing that it tends to see the most sun damage.”
Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
“If you are one of those people who never liked putting creams on their face, then you will surely love the Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
. This powder sunscreen comes in four different shades so it isn’t difficult to find one that will match your skintone. I like that this sunscreen doesn’t leave a white cast and is super easy to reapply on the go. This sunscreen is easy to carry around since it is compact and portable, the application is also seamless and won’t come off even when you sweat.”
Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen
“This sunscreen by Neutrogena is specially formulated for babies and comes with a broad-spectrum SPF 50. The Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen
provides an effective shield against UVA and UVB rays, and is dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and water resistant as well.”
Nazarian is also a proponent of mineral sunscreens and recommends TruSkin SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen with Vitamin C.
“Mineral sunscreens tend to be the most stable and most gentle on skin. I also feel the key to success lies with antioxidants. The more antioxidants, and utilizing the various modalities of implementing antioxidants, can give you the best coverage. You can look for sunscreens that combine their mineral ingredients with potent free-radical fighting antioxidants, my favorite being vitamin C,” Nazarian says. “This is a great option that checks all the boxes. The vitamin C neutralizes environmental stressors that degrade our youthful collagen fibers and cause pigmentary alterations on the skin (sun spots! Uneven skin tone!) while the 100% pure zinc oxide protects against multiple skin cancers and offers stable sun coverage.”
Before you go, check out the best skincare teens we wish we’d had as teens: