The sweltering heat and sound of cicadas are all the signs you need to know it’s July and Summer is officially here…which brings us to the single most important skincare product
during summertime like, ever: A good sunscreen.
The number one trick to finding the perfect sunscreen for you is simply to pick something your skin can tolerate! It’s not about finding the highest SPF number, and it shouldn’t feel super heavy on your skin. Sunscreen is a product you should be wearing daily, so you want to look for something that is easy, absorbable and allows for regular application!
When shopping for sunscreens, there are two main types of sun filters: mineral and chemical. When it comes to UVB rays (the ultraviolet rays that are responsible for causing sunburn), these two types of sun filters work in pretty much the same way. However, the main difference lies in that mineral sunscreens will reflect UVA rays (rays that cause premature skin aging changes), while chemical sunscreens will absorb them. There are pros and cons to each filter system, so it’s important to find the one that suits you best!
Chemical sunscreens contain carbon and thus are also called organic filters. You are most likely already familiar with these types of sunscreen as they are very common, and are honestly my preferred type of sunscreen. They function by fully absorbing harmful UVA and UVB rays before they reach your skin layer. These types of sunscreens are usually easier to apply, with little to no white cast or residue, but it’s crucial to reapply often so that it can fully protect your skin.
On the other hand, mineral sunscreens (also known as physical or inorganic sunscreens) work by forming a barrier on your skin that reflects or filters UVA and UVB rays. The main benefit of mineral filters is that they are less sensitizing, and usually last longer than chemical filters. However, they often contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide formulas which can be more thick and difficult to spread on your skin, and they also tend to leave a white cast, so people with darker skin tones may want to watch out for these types of sunscreens.
Last but not least, we can’t forget to talk about SPF (Sun Protection Factor). A good sunscreen should have an SPF anywhere between 30 to 50. You really should not rely on an SPF lower than 30, because SPF doesn’t work as a complete shield, nor is it truly water and sweat resistant, meaning some UV rays may still penetrate through. For those with a more sensitive skin, we (along with many other dermatologists) will recommend using at least a broad-spectrum SPF 50 to be safe. If you are going to the pool or the beach or plan on having a tanning day, always buy a water-resistant, SPF 50 broad-spectrum formula to protect against both harmful UVA/UVB rays and reapply at least every two hours.
A general piece of advice to take away with you, is to remember that there is no such sunscreen that can totally block the sun, and even the “water resistant” ones are water and sweat resistant for up to 40 – 80 minutes or so. Sunscreens need an even film to do its job, so try to add sunscreen as the last step in your regimen. Studies have shown that most people do not use enough sunscreen to reach the necessary protection level, so it doesn’t matter whether you choose to use mineral or chemical sunscreens — just listen to your skin and choose the one that you will want to reach for and apply daily!