Now that the weather is (finally!) warming up, it’s time for some fun in the sun. And you wouldn’t do that without slathering yourself in sunscreen first, right? To get the most out of your sunscreen, find one that works with your specific skin type. “When a formula is appropriate for a particular skin type or condition it will feel good on that person’s skin, making it more likely that they will use it every day,” says Suneel Chilukuri, MD, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Founder of Refresh Dermatology in Houston, Texas. “Sunscreen is the most important part of your regimen for protecting your skin from damage and potentially skin cancer, so having a formula feel good and help your skin in other ways aside from just sun protection — moisture, light texture, tint — makes it a pleasure to use, not an imposition.”
Obviously your skin type isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when shopping for sunscreen. “Look at ingredients and SPF numbers — I like at least SPF 30 in a day cream every day,” says New York City-based Dermatologist Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. “For being on the beach, 50 or higher is a must. Chemical sunscreens tend to be better if you break a sweat or want something that blends in well. Physical works better in general, but can leave a white film. If you are just hanging out outdoors, go with physical sunscreen when possible.”
Your sunscreen won’t do you any good if you don’t apply it correctly. “Pretty much everyone doesn’t apply enough,” says Bhanusali. “In order to get the full amount of SPF, you need about one ounce (or a shot glass full) each time you apply! If not the skin cancer prevention, it’s also the best thing to do to prevent sun damage and premature aging.” Be sure to apply 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply if you get in the water or break a sweat. Don’t forget to cover exposed areas like the neck, chest, hands and arms. Look for broad spectrum protection to ensure you’re being protected from the whole spectrum of UV light. As an added bonus, keep an eye out for formulas that contain antioxidants that boost skin protection.
And don’t forget to apply it every single day — really! “A common mistake is not applying sunscreen because it is cloudy outside or you will not be outdoors,” Chilukuri says. “Remember that more than 80% of the sun’s UV rays are still present on a cloudy day and can lead to sun damage. Indoors, research has shown UV exposure still occurs when sitting in any setting that has fluorescent lighting.” Also, many women think that they don’t need to use sunscreen if their foundation contains SPF, but most women do not apply enough foundation to actually provide full protection. Even if your foundation contains SPF, apply your sunscreen first.
Our experts share their favorite sunscreens for every skin type.
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