Bikini? Check. Sandals? Check. Sun protection? Here’s what you need to know about keeping your skin safe this summer.
When it comes to keeping your skin safe, you have two basic options. The first is a physical sunblock — think of it as a mirror that reflects light, blocking the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunblocks are made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, aka that thick white stuff that doesn’t disappear into your skin no matter how much you rub it in. That might not sound visually appealing, but these cream formulas are actually the best option if you have sensitive skin, since they’re less likely to cause a reaction. If you can’t handle the residue, look for tinted and micronized formulas, which blend into skin better than the original formulas.
Your other option is a chemical sunscreen, which works by absorbing UVA and UVB light to keep it from damaging skin. You’ll find many more formulations here, from creams to gels to fine mists. Just keep in mind that the safety of chemical sunscreens has been the subject of some debate. The Environmental Working Group cautions that research has found some chemical ingredients disrupt estrogen, androgen, and progesterone levels, in addition to being linked to endometriosis in women. That said, most researchers agree that more sensitive testing is needed to concretely determine whether chemical ingredients in sunscreen are actually harmful.
Regardless of which formulation you choose, the most important rule of thumb is that you apply liberally and reapply every two to three hours.
Your foundation may contain SPF, but don’t count on it alone for complete sun protection. The good news? There are as many sunblock options for the face as there are skin types. Don’t rely on the same sunblock you use on your body, which can clog pores. Instead, look for options especially formulated for the face — there are plenty in spray, cream, and gel form, and even formulas that offer anti aging and acne-fighting benefits, too. Just avoid products containing preservatives, fragrances, alcohol, PABA, or oxybenzone if you have allergy-prone skin or conditions like acne or rosacea — physical sunscreens and those made with salicylates and ecamsule are least likely to cause a reaction. (Heads up, some topical acne medications increase sun sensitivity, so it’s especially important you keep your skin protected if this type of topical treatment is in your acne arsenal.)
The eyes are also an important area when it comes to sun protection — the eyelid may make up a tiny fraction of the skin on your body, but it accounts for up to ten percent of all skin cancers, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. SCF recommends doubling up with sunglasses and sunscreen. Opt for at least SPF 15 and look for a formula made for the eyes — it’ll be less likely to irritate the sensitive area. And make sure your sunnies fit correctly. Wearing them farther out on the nose results in a significant increase of UV rays reaching the eyes.
63 percent of sunscreen users skip their lips — but shouldn’t. The skin on our lips is thinner than the skin on other areas of the face and contains almost no skin-protecting melanin, so it’s more susceptible to burns and skin cancer. And you definitely shouldn’t wear gloss without a layer of sunscreen underneath — when your lips are hydrated, UV rays have an easier time penetrating the unprotected skin. Go for an SPF 30 lip balm or lip sunscreen (whether you’re wearing it alone or under gloss or lipstick), Doris Day, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University Langone Medical Center tells Everyday Health.
A top-knot is no match for the sun’s rays. Protect your scalp with a sunblock formulated especially for the area — most come in an easy-to-re-apply spray and you’ll often get an extra conditioning boost out of them, too. Not to mention, scalp- and hair-specific formulas won’t leave a greasy residue behind. If you’re already dealing with oily locks, look for a mineral sunscreen powder. Top it off with a hat — one with a three- to five-inch brim offers the best protection.