Get the Most out of your Sunscreen

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Want to avoid the brown spots and wrinkles of pre-mature aging and prevent some of the damage that can lead to skin cancers down the road? With the right application of sunscreen, you get the full protection out of the SPF on the label. It costs a lot more later in expensive products and procedures to remove sun damage, than what you will spend on well-formulated sunscreens now.

SPF 30 vs 50

Our dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen daily, a product with SPF 30 or above, but what’s the real difference between SPF 30 and 50? It sounds like a lot, but the difference is a mere percentage point. The sun protection factor is the amount of UV radiation that a sunscreen blocks. SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UV, while 50 blocks about 98%, and that is only if applied properly. If you use too little, your SPF 30 may block less than 90%, and the protection doesn’t last as long. It’s better to focus more on application than percentages, so here are a few simple steps for smooth coverage that will provide the protection you need this summer.

  1. Be generous. Apply 3 dime-size dollops of sunscreen directly to your face, 2 on cheeks and 1 on forehead, then blend. Use at least two tablespoons for your body.
  2. Layer properly. Mineral-based sunscreens are best applied over your moisturizer. It should be the top layer, aside from make-up. Chemicals go under moisturizers because they need to absorb into your skin to form a shield. (Some sunscreens are also moisturizers. Learn more at Sunscreens in Action).
  3. Apply evenly, to avoid gaps in protection. Many sunscreens apply white at first, to make this easier. The white film absorbs in a few minutes.
  4. Give it time. Zinc offers immediate protection but still needs to dry to stay in place. Other components of a product need time to work, like the chemicals oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, or any water resistant ingredients. 20 minutes should be plenty of time.
  5. Reapply every 90 minutes during times of direct exposure. Some studies indicate that the efficacy of minerals drops off gradually over the coarse of a few hours, while the drop-off rate on chemical sunscreens is fast, one reason why many dermatologists recommend zinc-based sunscreens.
  6. Touch-ups: Several skin care lines now make transparent, powder-based SPF’s that make touch-ups easier. From clear to tinted powders, you get a smooth, matte finish. Two great brands are Jane Iredale Powder-Me SPF and Colorscience Sunforgettable, and either can be applied over make-up or lotion.
  7. No matter how well you apply, just keep in mind that any sun protection product is a shield, but not a complete barrier. That’s why these products are no longer be called sunblocks. But you can take it up a notch with UPF-rated, wearable protection, like hats & clothing from Coolibar
  8. Good sun protection is the foundation of any skin care routine, year-round. Of course, there’s more to great skin than sunscreen. Coming soon, some tips for a lovely summer glow!

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