Spring has arrived. The sun is shining and the days are getting longer. Everyone is rushing outdoors to catch much-needed Vitamin D after a long,
dark winter. In the excitement, some people forget to apply sunscreen. But sunnier weather is no excuse to forget to protect your skin against the
sun’s harmful rays.
Why sunscreen is important
Everyone is meant to wear sunscreen, no matter their climate, age or race. The root of this is ultraviolet radiation, which is emitted by the sun and absorbed by our skin. Too much exposure to UV radiation poses health risks such as skin damage and skin cancer.
- Skin damage
Getting sunburnt is common during the summer with prolonged exposure to the sun — especially when people are on vacation and spend time on the beach with little protection from clothing or shade. Too much sun exposure results in short-term skin damage, like a sunburn, as well as long-term damage, like premature aging.
Sunscreen helps protect the skin from the tell-tale signs of premature aging, wrinkles and reduced skin elasticity. Although many people want to achieve bronzed skin from tanning, the sun can also create undesirable pigmentation in the form of freckles.
- Skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Reducing sun exposure and protecting your skin from radiation are key factors in preventing skin cancer. Risk factors of skin cancer include prolonged sun exposure, living in high-altitude regions and previous sunburns.
How to wear sunscreen
Sunscreen should be applied after your moisturizer, and incorporating sunscreen into your morning skincare routine will make it a daily habit. Sunscreen should also be reapplied every few hours throughout the day.
Wearing sunscreen is essential for everyone, but reapplication is especially important for those who spend an above-average time outdoors, like summer athletes and lifeguards. Apply sunscreen on the skin and rub in a circular motion until it’s blended in. Body parts often neglected in sunscreen application are the nose, eyelids, hands, neck, shoulder and chest area.
Chemical versus physical sunscreen
Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin, physically blocking UVA and UVB rays from penetrating the skin. These sunscreens can leave a sticky film on the skin that some people dislike. Physical sunscreens rub off easily, but they don’t clog pores.
On the other hand, chemical sunscreens convert UV rays to heat and release them from the skin. Chemical sunscreens get a bad rep because it is claimed they contain irritating ingredients. However, they don’t need as much reapplication and are just as effective at protecting the skin. Whether you choose chemical or physical sunscreen is based on personal preference.
Numbers can be confusing, especially when you’re in the drugstore scanning endless SPF numbers on each sunscreen bottle. SPF stands for sun protection factor and measures how long sunscreen can protect your skin from getting sunburnt. An SPF of 50 protects your skin longer than SPF 30.
My sunscreen recommendations
There are many sunscreens on the market, but after years of trying out different brands and formulas, here are my recommendations:
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55
I wore this sunscreen for eight years as a teenager and it didn’t clog my pores or irritate my skin, even when I was experiencing hormonal acne during puberty. It blends well into the skin and works on all skin types because of the sheer consistency. It does, however, leave a slight white cast.
- Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen, SPF 40
This sunscreen doesn’t feel sticky or leave a white cast after application. I recommend it for those who wear makeup, since it is extremely lightweight and soft to the touch. It also acts as a primer and is oil-free, so it is perfect for everyday use.
Other forms of sun protection
Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection. Other measures include covering your skin with clothing, especially sensitive areas like the chest and shoulders, and wearing a hat to protect your face, hair and scalp. There are also hair products that contain SPF to keep your head healthy in the sun. Additionally, you can take breaks from the sun by sitting in shady areas or avoiding going out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun is most intense.