In this day and age, no skincare routine is complete without sunscreen. You should be wearing it every day and reapplying every two hours if you’re outside. The key to keeping your skin looking ageless? Use sunscreen consistently.
When I was growing up your sunscreen options were limited and who was going to wear it anyway, when all we wanted was that beautiful Coppertone tan with a line that clearly delineated what's covered by my bathing suit and what isn't. Let's face it, everyone looks healthier with a little color on their skin. Keywords being "a little". Fortunately for me, I was never a sun worshiper and I never liked the sun on my face. If I did go to the beach, my face was always covered and I could only tolerate an hour or two before I sought shade.
Even so, about twenty years ago, I went to a health fair sponsored by my then employer and they had a skin analysis machine. When the technician shared the results, I was horrified.
I would say 85 percent of my face had significant sun damage. The technician saw my horror and said “you can’t reverse the damage that’s been done, but you can slow the progression”. His recommendation - wear sunscreen. Every. Day.
After that experience, I became a little obsessed. Now, I’m well into my fifties and I’ve made sunscreen a consistent part of my skincare routine.
For the past 2 years, I’ve blogged about my favorites. You can read more here. I’ve since expanded my options. I’ve been on the hunt for the best, most affordable SPF that works for my aging skin.
During that time, my focus has been on mineral sunscreens. I like them better because they were more natural and cleaner. They literally act as a shield. And until recently, I thought that anything chemical was bad, but I'm starting to change my mind.
SPF isn’t just a number.
In case you didn’t know, SPF stands for sun protection factor. It’s a measure of how much UV radiation is required to cause a sunburn. The higher the SPF, the less likely you are to burn. However, SPF only refers to UVB - the burning rays and not UVA - the aging rays.
That’s why it's so important to look for a broad-spectrum sunblock that offers protection from both. The Skin Cancer Institute does a great job of breaking this down. If you’re concerned about your skin like I am, you should definitely try using a higher SPF daily like 30 or 50. Anything higher gives you a false sense of protection. Dr. Shereen Idriss, you may know her as the @PillowtalkDerm, is a New York-based Dermatologist who does a great job breaking this down. You can read more here.
Mineral versus chemical.
Mineral has come a long way in the last few years. These sunscreens have one or two key active ingredients: zinc or titanium dioxide, or both. Mineral SPF works by physically blocking UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. They form a physical barrier that reflects the light rays away from the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using mineral sunscreen (instead of chemical sunscreen) if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin.
Chemical and mineral basically work the same way. They both absorb ultraviolet light and convert it to heat which is then released from the body. The difference is that mineral has the added benefit of deflecting or scattering visible light. Chemical SPF products are silky and glide on your skin with an invisible finish, which means they are easy to apply, absorb quickly, and don’t have a white cast.
The too good to be true aspect of chemical is well, they’re chemical. The CDC thinks there’s enough of a concern that they’re researching oxybenzone and octinoxate, homosalate, and octisalate - all key ingredients in chemical sunscreens - because they may be endocrine disruptors and that can't be good. While there’s no conclusive evidence of this, it's worth thinking about.
What I’ve read recently is that like anything, not all mineral SPF is inherently clean either. In fact, chemical SPF can be just as safe and effective as mineral-based SPF. There's definitely a debate about which is better, but in the end, the best SPF is the one you are wearing. Any protection is better than no protection.
Long story short, I’m having second thoughts about chemical sunscreens and have started to use a combination of both.
Change it up with the seasons.
If you live in a climate with seasons, you’ll want to consider using different SPF at various times of the year. I live in New England, so the summers are more humid and winters drier, which means my skin has different needs. I use a lighter, less greasy mineral sunscreen in the summer when I’m outside, and a slightly thicker one with moisturizing properties during winter.
SPF isn't just for the face - remember your decolletage.
If you haven't started already, don't forget to slather sunscreen on this area. You will thank yourself later when your decolletage doesn't look like a turkey neck.
Best in show.
Every year, I hunt for the best sunscreens. I’ve tried a lot of different brands over the years, many of which I've tossed after the first try.
This year, I continued that journey because every year, the formulations get better. I’m obsessed with preserving my skin, keeping it glowing and healthy; daily SPF is part of that.
So I decided to come up with the things that I need in sunscreen to help me choose which ones worked best for me, including:
Have a minimal white cast
Doesn’t run into your eyes
Below is a list of the brands I’ve tried and used regularly in 2022. My best sunscreen recommendations are (drum roll please):
ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Sunscreen SPF 50+ - $60 I can’t say enough good things about this product. My dermatologist recommended it for more mature skin. It’s been suggested that it contains patented DNA repairsomes, which have been clinically proven to repair existing sun damage.
You might be wondering what exactly are DNA repairsomes. In a nutshell, they recognize and directly help to repair UV-induced skin damage.
This sunscreen includes vitamin E, dries quickly, and has a minimal white cast when applied but if you wait five minutes, it dries reasonably clear, it’s lightweight and doesn’t feel sticky. This year this is my daily go-to. They do sell a tinted version which I have yet to try.
My sister with whom I share this blog is a recent fan of the Unseen Sunscreen by Supergoop. It claims to be a "clean chemical" SPF that protects against UVA, UVB, and infrared radiation (IRA) which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVA/UVB. Bonus. It’s silky, lightweight, and easy to apply. It acts as a make-up primer and comes in tinted (glow screen) and non-tinted (unseen) formulations. Another bonus is that It contains hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 and niacinamide to help boost moisture. Active clean chemical ingredients include: Avobenzone 3%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 10%. I scooped up the tinted version and sometimes layer it over my mineral base for a little more color and glow.
Honorable Mentions. sunbetter Advanced Mineral Protection SPF 75 Sunscreen Lotion - $75 I love this product equally as much, but it's slightly heavier. I like how it blends into my skin and adjusts to my skin tone. It has a slight tint. It’s paraben, fragrance, dye, and cruelty-free. It’s not my every day because of the price point and the thickness, but I do love the way my skin looks with this product. This product I find works best during the shoulder season (spring and fall).
Tizo AM Replenish - SPF 40 - $48 Both my sister and I have used this SPF for years and we think the formulation keeps getting better. This all mineral SPF, spreads nicely and contains ceramides, vitamins C and E. I’ve added it here because although it’s no longer my go-to, it’s definitely one of the better ones out there. Tizo stands for titanium dioxide and zinc, the two key active ingredients in their products. The tinted and the untinted versions are the best.
Countersun Daily Sheer Defense BeautyCounter SPF 25 - $46 This is another one of my favorites. It goes on sheer, it’s organic, and includes antioxidants as well as moisturizing properties. It’s paraben, fragrance, dye, and cruelty-free. I love that this sunscreen is clean especially when you have to reapply it frequently. This is my sunscreen when I'm golfing, hiking, or just spending the day outside. It doesn't run, it's easy to apply and it doesn't leave a white cast.
Supergoop Play 100% Mineral Body Mist SPF 30 - $34 If I’m outside for an extended period of time, I use this SPF for my body. You don’t get a white cast, and because it contains antioxidants, it feels good on your skin. Its active ingredient is zinc (12%). I love this sunscreen!
At the end of the day, it's all about consistency and common sense. Wear your sunscreen and your skin will thank you for it.
Do you have a favorite sunscreen? Let us know. We are always looking for the best of the best.
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