“Sunscreen is the best anti-aging cream you own.”
Say that to anyone in the skincare industry and I bet they’ll agree with you. While heavy duty collagen creams and retinols may help diminish the appearance of wrinkles and brown spots, sunscreen is the key to preventing them from appearing in the first place.
That being said, sunscreen should absolutely not be reserved for beach days. Even if you spend your days working indoors, hidden from the sunshine, UVA rays penetrate window glass, which means you are exposed during your commute and if your office is filled with natural light. UV rays are especially harmful during winter months since rays are strengthened due to the reflective nature of snow.
Note: You may want to think twice about those hands on the sunny steering wheel too because hands and necks show the symptoms of photoaging the most.
Since sunscreen is one beauty product we can’t skip (and one we should technically be reapplying throughout the day) it’s important to find the right one. Avoid toxic sunscreens that seep chemicals into your blood stream, and find a natural alternative that supports skin health, by following these five fool-proof pointers.
#1: Look for sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB rays
The term SPF (for sun protection factor) only refers to the protection the sunscreen offers from UVB radiation, the rays that cause sunburn. However, most photoaging results from UVA rays, and both types contribute to skin cancer. Be sure to choose a product that blocks UVA and UVB.
#2: Be cautious of SPF numbers over 50
SPF refers mainly to the amount of UVB protection a sunscreen offers. An SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks nearly 97 percent. Despite these advantages, there are potential downsides to using products with very high SPFs.
First, above SPF 50 (which blocks an estimated 98 percent of UVB rays), the increase in UVA protection is minimal. Individuals applying high-SPF sunscreens may not burn (UVB is the chief cause of sunburn), but without UVA-screening ingredients they can still receive large amounts of skin-damaging radiation. To avoid such a scenario, regulatory bodies in Europe and Australia have adopted UVA testing guidelines and measurement standards, and capped the SPF of sunscreens at 50+.
When shopping for sunscreen try looking for products with SPFs no lower than 30 and no higher than 50.
#3: Know the difference between chemical and physical suncreen
To be effective, chemical sunscreens need to be rubbed into skin 20 minutes before sun exposure. They do a pretty good job at blocking UV light, but they actually get used up as the sun shines on them. In fact, some sunscreens lose as much as 90% of their effectiveness in just an hour, so they need to be reapplied often. This is not the case with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the two mineral, or physical, sunscreens. These two work very differently – they sit on the surface of the skin and physically block UV light.
Chemical sunscreens don’t sit on the surface of the skin – they soak into it and quickly find their way into the bloodstream. They scatter all over the body without being detoxified by the liver and can be detected in blood, urine, and breast milk for up to two days after a single application. That would be just fine if they were uniformly safe – but they’re not.
Titanium dioxide is noncomedogenic, meaning it does not contain oil that can clog the skin’s pores. In terms of effectiveness, titanium dioxide is effective at blocking ultraviolet-B and short-wave ultraviolet-A rays, but it is less effective than zinc dioxide at blocking long ultraviolet-A rays.
Zinc oxide’s ability to block different types of rays makes it one of the most effective sun protection products on the market at fighting the sun’s rays. In addition to its sun-fighting properties, zinc oxide is known for its noncomedogenic and antimicrobial properties. However, zinc oxide often is combined with additional ultraviolet-B blockers to provide the most complete broad-spectrum sunscreen.
A combination of zinc and titannium dioxide, these four sunscreens offer broad-spectrum, physical – rather than chemical – sun protection:
#4: Don’t Forget To Protect Your Lips
Lips have almost no melanin (the color is derived from tiny blood vessels beneath the skin) and so it’s up to you to protect them. If you don’t regularly wear lipstick, get in the habit of using a colorless lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher.
If lipstick is part of your makeup regimen, avoid the super-shiny, high-gloss lipsticks with little pigmentation. These act like baby oil for the lips, directing damaging UV rays right to the area you’re trying to protect.
Try to find a lip protector with an SPF rating of 15 or higher, like these Skin Cancer Foundation recommended products:
#5: If you’re planning on getting the coverage you need through mineral makeup, look for the Skin Cancer Foundation seal
Many makeup brands claim to have an SPF rating, but few deliver since most people on apply a fraction of what is necessary to achieve the SPF protection they seek. When shopping for makeup, look for those formulated with titanium oxide and zinc oxide, which will offer you instant, broad spectrum, chemical free sun protection. These four makeup products have been recommended for daily use by The Skin Cancer Foundation: