Sunscreen’s the one beauty product that helps prevent skin cancer and premature aging (and by this I mean all those lines, wrinkles, and spots that you otherwise wouldn’t get until you’re 70 if you stayed indoors.) New Yorkers have lots of reasons for not wearing it—laziness, for one. Or not finding one that’s right for your skin. There are even some health concerns over ingredients used in the formulations, which could give you the idea to give up sunscreen all together. But don’t. Like other things we do for our health, namely eating well and working out—or even for vanity—you have to exert a bit of effort to get it right. Unless you’re reading this article, and I’ve done the work for you with this quick primer on some reasons you still need to use a sunscreen and which ones I’m wearing.
Seven unsunny facts you should know about sunscreen:
1. No sunscreen covers the entire spectrum of ultra violet (UV) rays—and almost no American uses enough of it or applies it correctly. (Plus, UVA travels through glass.)
2. You have to re-apply sunscreen every 90 minutes. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing an SPF 15 or an SPF 70. Chemical sunscreen ingredients that protect skin from UV rays breakdown on exposure to, well, UV rays. Mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are sturdier and more stable but the recommended use is the same.
3. There is virtually no difference in the protection offered by a sunscreen that claims to have an SPF 30 or an SPF 70.
4. The more cosmetically elegant sunscreens, the ones that feel like a high-end moisturizer or makeup, are chemical sunscreens. An exception: Z-Cote, a microfine zinc, which is almost transparent on skin compared to than the ghastly white lifeguard stuff.
5. Sunscreens that start working as soon as you apply them are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These minerals reflect or block UV light. Chemical sunscreens take about 20 minutes to start the UV-ray protection process, which happens in the skin.
6. Oily or breakout-prone skin should use mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
7. Sunscreens are anti-aging. They help protect against discoloration, free-radical damage, lines, wrinkles, and the breakdown of proteins collagen and elastin that give skin its firmness and snap-back, and the mutation cells and DNA.
The sunscreens I’m using right now:
In my moisturizer
La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizing Cream with Sunscreen SPF 15, $29.50
Why: The big-name sunscreen ingredient in it, Mexoryl (official ingredient name is Ecamsule), protects against a spectrum of UVA light that nothing else catches. This is why it was smuggled back from France before it was legal in the U.S. I also have Anthelios 40 ($32), a straight-up sunscreen cream, which has an additional 5 percent titanium dioxide in it. Both creams feel like moisturizers and don’t drip when I workout. I probably look a bit dewy but not shiny when I wear them. And I wear them constantly.
Josie Maran Daily Sun Protection Argan Oil Infused SPF 40+, $32
Why: It’s a new product that’s quickly claimed prime sink-side real estate. The natural-leaning formulation has skin-care ingredients in it like nourishing argan and pomegranate oil. It absorbs in a second, minimizes shine (thanks to the zinc), and gives my skin an evenness like a tinted moisturizer or primer. I can see myself going through several bottles of it this summer.
Sonya Dakar 365 SPF 30, $39
Why: It smells like a skin-care product, thanks to lavender extract, and it feels like one, too. I used to wear it every day (under makeup or without makeup) until I started on a quest to find one with cleaner ingredients.
Goddess Garden Lavender Mint Sunscreen SPF 20, $14.99
Why: It’s a natural knock-off of the Dakar sunscreen, but with 70 percent organic ingredients (and 70 percent more time rubbing it into the skin). You’ll recognize almost every ingredient on the label, a great sign.
Pratima Neem Vetiver Body Suncreen SPF 30, $26
Why: It’s surprisingly awesome. I didn’t expect to become a fan of the NYC Ayurvedic doctor’s sunscreen (her skin-care products have never won me over). But I don’t mind slathering this chemical-free one loaded with familiar natural ingredients on my arms and legs one single bit.
SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense SPF 30, $37
Why: Science-geek factor. Its microscopic minerals (Z-Cote and titanium dioxide) do a good job of keeping me perennially pale. And it also has a mattifying effect, meaning the product minimizes shine.
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