Did you know that wearing sunscreen is almost an art? There are so many rules and so much information out there on how to apply them correctly that it is probably much easier to grab a bottle of your favourite protector, slather it on your skin and hope that you’re doing it right. Does this sound like you? If so, fear not! I am going to distill everything I’ve learned (and I am still learning!) into as few words as possible to keep things simple and easy to remember.
What is SPF, and is the highest grade the best?
SPF = sun protection factor. SPF 30 doesn’t mean that it’s twice as powerful as an SPF 15, it simply means that you will be able to have a longer amount of time in the sun before burning and having to reapply sunscreen. Thus, if it takes about 10 minutes for your skin to burn without sunscreen, and you apply an SPF of 15, you will be able to stay out in the sun for 150 minutes before burning (that’s 300 minutes for SPF 30). So you could say it provides twice the time, but not the blockage power. The blockage power does improve a bit in the higher grades, but it is more effective and important that you apply the proper amount, and reapply it as needed.
Which SPF grade should I use then?
Most dermatologists recommend SPF 30 for everyday use and SPF 50+ for outdoor activities. Make sure that the sunscreen is labelled broad-spectrum –this means it blocks out most UVA rays. No matter how high the SPF in your cream is, you must apply it every two hours if you are under the sun all day, because sunscreen will get rubbed, washed or sweated off.
How long does a sunscreen protect you from burning (if applied correctly)?
Minutes it takes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number of your sunscreen = maximum sun exposure time *Note that most people apply less than the needed amount of sunscreen, and that this will affect the time it takes for your skin to burn.
It’s an overcast day, why do I need to still apply sunscreen?
Two types of sun rays reach the earth: UVB, and UVA. UVB causes immediate damage to the skin, aka burning/tanning. UVA rays age your skin and up to 80% can pass through clouds, smog, and glass. Save yourself the trouble and expense of age-reversing creams later on, and slather on that concoction that most of us think is only for the hot sunny weather.
What’s the difference between a chemical sunscreen and a physical sunscreen, and how does this fit into my beauty routine; do I put it on before or after moisturising/makeup?
Chemical sunscreens have active ingredients that need time to bind to the skin in order to activate. So if you use chemical sunscreens with UV filters such as mexoryl, oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene, make sure you apply sunscreen before your moisturiser/makeup routine. Otherwise, you are preventing the chemical reaction and the sunscreen from working the way they should. Reapplication of sunscreen during the day should not be affected too much, as the moisturiser will have had time to sink in or wear off.
Physical sunscreens contain titanimum dioxide and zinc oxide. These minerals form a shield on your skin so that the sun’s rays will be deflected from your skin. This means that they don’t need to be applied in advance, and they don’t necessarily need to be applied before your moisturiser. Keep in mind that your moisturiser(s)/foundation/etc. may have ingredients that will dilute your sunscreen and make it less effective. In my opinion, it is always best to apply sunscreen first, and after applying your skincare routine, to make touch-ups with your sunscreen.
The order of application for skincare products is usually from thinnest to thickest. I happen to use two natural sunscreens from Josie Maran and tarte that are less thick in consistency than the standard sunscreen. Therefore, I would apply them first before any other skincare products. The type of sunscreen you use, and its consistency in relation to your skincare routine should dictate which should be applied first.
How much sunscreen is the proper amount?
The technical answer is about two milligrams for every square centimeter of skin, and half a teaspoon for the face. If you use a lotion, a quarter-sized dollop on every single body part should suffice. For sticks, two passes back and forth or four layers total. With a spray, the can should be held an inch or so away and sprayed until the skin glistens; then, rub it in.
You don’t have to apply sunscreen in the areas that are covered by clothing, right?
Short answer — yes, you do. Hold the garment(s) in question up to the light. If you can see through the fabric even the teeniest, tiniest bit, it’s not protecting you. Rub that sunscreen in!
Done, done, and done. I’m ready to deflect those rays!
Not. So. Fast. Sunscreen is an important part of your arsenal, but you shouldn’t rely on it alone. Wear hats, use parasols (I have done this!), and walk on the shadier side of the street. And of course, the Mexicans were onto something with their siestas. The midday sun’s rays are the most intense.
In 2012, I came across Josie Maran’s SPF 30+ argan sunscreen and fell in love. It lasted me for four wonderful years mostly because I used to be pretty bad at applying sunscreen every day. By the time I learned how to make it a regular thing, an eighth of the bottle was left and starting to … errm, congeal and lose its texture and consistency. I finally decided to hop onto Sephora’s website (it was never available in Canadian stores) and buy another bottle, but they no longer sold it. Neither did Josie Maran’s website. I panicked. Panicking is proper procedure when you lose a beauty staple, is it not? I finally decided to try out another product from Josie Maran, and one by tarte cosmetics. In the picture, you will see that the Josie Maran argan sunscreen’s texture looks dodgy — see this post for its original, glorious consistency.
After using my two new sunscreens, I can honestly say that I won’t miss my old standby too much. Here are my thoughts:
Does not have:
Consistency is incredibly liquid. The light formula rubs in easily and is not greasy. Has a pleasant, soft, natural smell and does not have the heavy, white look of the original Josie Maran sunscreen. It is also a moisturiser which rather takes out the dilemma of applying moisturiser/sunscreen first. Skin feels hydrated, and I cannot tell that I have sunscreen on. This is a bonus in my man’s eyes, because the previous formulation on my legs meant that my seat in the car became chalky white every summer.
Does not have:
Also a moisturising lotion, its consistency is firmer, but still liquid. Blends into skin easily, isn’t greasy, and does not leave a visual trace. However, when I run my hand over the skin, it feels stickier than the one that has Josie Maran’s formula on. Has a soft, sweet floral scent that may make some people feel queasy. The bottle is very heavy, and it is hard to tell whether there is more packaging than there is sunscreen.
The competition is fierce but close between these two, and Josie Maran’s has the slight edge for me because the packaging is clearer in terms of showing how much product is left, the formula seems lighter, the SPF is higher, and the scent is less obtrusive. In terms of price, Josie Maran also wins. A 2 oz. bottle costs $32, whereas tarte’s 1.7 oz. bottle costs $38.
I recommend these two, especially if you are in the market for sunscreens with natural ingredients, but my top pick is absolutely Josie Maran’s.
Keep cool, covered (in sunscreen) and enjoy your sunny days!