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Summer & SPF: Our Definitive Guide to Sunscreen

Everything you need to know about sunscreen: how to protect your skin all summer with sunscreen, including what SPF stands for and the difference between UVA and UVB rays.

Sunscreen Guide

From warmer weather to longer days, summer brings a lot of good things. It’s the season of vacations and sunshine, which is why your usual skin care and makeup looks may need an update. Sunscreen should be a given, followed by lightweight textures and makeup that contains SPF — and is easy to pack, of course.

What is the skin barrier?

The skin barrier, or epidermal barrier, is the outermost portion of your stratum corneum. Simply put, it’s the top layer of skin. The skin barrier is made of cells and lipids. Think of your skin barrier as a wall, with cells being the bricks and the lipids as mortar.

  • What does SPF stand for? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to protect from UVB rays from damaging the skin.1 A higher SPF doesn’t mean it protects skin for a longer amount of time; rather, that means it can block a slightly higher percentage of rays relative to unprotected skin. Look for the label “broad spectrum” to ensure it covers both UVA and UVB.
  • What’s the difference between UVA and UVB? UVA rays, which have a longer wavelength, are associated with aging, while UVB rays have a shorter wavelength are responsible for sunburns and most skin cancers.
  • When is sun damage most likely? The higher the sun, the stronger the rays. If you’re out in midday, you may need a higher SPF to help protect you along with taking other sun protection measures, such as staying in the shade and wearing a hat or sun-protective clothing.
  • Do I need sunscreen if I have dark skin? Everyone should always wear sunscreen if they will be exposed to the sun, including people of color. While melanin, the pigment in skin, does offer some natural protection from sun damage and skin cancer risk — leading to a false sense of immunity — it’s nowhere near the minimum SPF 30 recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.23 Those of all skin tones can develop skin cancer.
  • How much sunscreen should I apply? Apply sunscreen to any skin on both face and body that isn’t covered by clothing — for most adults, that’s about the amount in a shot glass. You should apply it to dry skin about 15 minutes before going outside.4

How Long Does Sunscreen Last?

The protection of sunscreen lasts about two hours, which is why dermatologists and FDA recommend reapplying after that. That timeline gets shorter if you introduce anything that can wash it away, like sweat or jumping in the pool. (There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen, and while some may be labeled as water-resistant, it’s only for a short period of time.) The bottom line: If you’ve just gone for a run or swim, you should apply immediately after drying off — and rinse and repeat, literally, as needed.

Mineral Sunscreen Vs. Chemical Sunscreen

There are two types of sunscreens: mineral and chemical. Chemical sunscreens use ingredients, such as oxybenzone and avobenzone, that sink into the skin and absorb the UV energy released by the sun. (Think of them as a sponge for sunlight.) Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, contain particles that sit on the skin’s surface, creating a shield and reflecting away UV rays. Among these are sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Is mineral sunscreen better than chemical sunscreen? The best choice really depends on what you’re looking for, because they both have pros and cons. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by skin, so you often get more even coverage with it. Plus, they’re less likely to leave any chalky residue, and are therefore easier to blend in — particularly for those with darker skin tones.

Mineral sunscreens are better for those with sensitive skin, but, because they form a physical barrier on the skin’s surface, need to be applied more thoroughly and evenly. Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are also more likely to leave a sheen on skin. Still, it comes down to a matter of preference.

Sunscreen Spray or Lotion?

As for choosing a formula, you can choose between sprays or lotions. You may choose based on your preference. However, it may be difficult to tell how well sunscreen sprays cover your skin, so you may miss spots and not even realize it. Plus, the wind could blow some sunscreen away if you’re misting it on outside. If you already have a sunscreen spray, your best bet is to spray it into your hand and rub it into skin yourself instead.

Your Summer Skin Care Routine

It’s important to have a dedicated sunscreen for the face, as body sunscreens may irritate delicate facial skin — and they might not be noncomedogenic, meaning they could potentially clog pores. The best face sunscreens are usually lightweight, noncomedogenic, and with moisturizers and antioxidants. So, whether you’re heading to the beach or on the road trip, don’t forget to pack a few of the best face sunscreens, makeup that contains SPF, and other travel essentials:

UV Expert Sunscreen Aquagel Defense SPF 50 Priming Moisturizer: If you hated the chalky, greasy sunscreen formulas of years past, you’re in luck — because this moisturizer is the opposite. Not only does it offer antioxidant vitamin E and a lightweight texture, it also has SPF 50.

Visionnaire SPF 20 Day Cream: This day cream hydrates, plumps, and protects against aging with SPF 20, locking in moisture for 24 hours — perfect for long days out as a tourist to both nourish skin and protect from UV rays.

Advanced Génifique Sensitive Antioxidant Serum: Antioxidants are a smart pairing with sunscreen. That’s because antioxidants are known to help neutralize free radicals, which are caused by sun exposure and contribute to signs of aging (think lines and wrinkles).

Energie de Vie Cooling Eye Gel: Want to look and feel alert after putting in serious mileage? This gel with caffeine and antioxidants illuminates your under-eye area while refreshing and hydrating for instant results that last 24 hours.

Miel-en-Mousse Foaming Cleanser: As both a cleanser and makeup remover, this means you can simplify your packing when you travel. Win-win!

How to Create Your Summer Makeup Look

UV Expert Mineral CC Cream SPF 50: Get the best of both worlds — a mineral sunscreen as well as lightweight coverage for your complexion — with this CC cream. The subtle tint with antioxidant and mineral sun protection blurs flaws and defends skin. And because it comes in five shades, you don’t have to worry about this leaving any chalky residue — as is often the case in other sunscreens with zinc oxide.

Skin Feels Good Skin Nourishing Foundation SPF 23: If you’re looking for that no-makeup makeup look, you’re in the right place. This oil-free buildable foundation, so you can use it for a lighter tint or layer it on for full coverage. And with broad-spectrum SPF 23.

Rénergie Lift Makeup Foundation SPF 27: For long, sunny days where you want luminous full coverage, this foundation helps protect skin while also offering buildable coverage that doesn’t feels heavy. It also offers SPF 27 for sun protection, up to 12 hours of hydration, and active ingredients to visibly minimize the appearance of imperfections.

Blush Subtil: This blush adds a fun pop of color to your summer makeup look and gives skin a fresh, rosy glow. Sweep it onto your cheeks for a believable flush.

L’Absolu Mademoiselle Shine in Mademoiselle Plays: Found: The perfect everyday neutral lip color for that completes your summer makeup look. The color goes on and stays on strong, but also keeps lips moisturized.

Though these will keep you covered for the summer, it’s wise to use these sunscreens and makeup that contain SPF year-round — we’re talking rain or shine. That’s because UVA and UVB are always present whatever the forecast or season; even on cloudy days, for instance, rays can still penetrate and cause your skin to be exposed to them. And the sun still shines even when you’re skiing in the snow in the middle of winter. So, slather it on. These formulas make it easy.

1 https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs
2 https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs
3 https://www.skincancer.org/blog/ask-the-expert-is-there-a-skin-cancer-crisis-in-people-of-color/
4 https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs

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