Sunscreen 101: Experts explain everything you need to know about sun protection

Picture this: You're lounging by the pool, sipping your cocktail, and basking in the glorious sunshine. It's a scene straight out of a movie, and you're giving it-girl energy. But before you dive headfirst into that sun-soaked fantasy, there's a reality check you can't afford to miss — are you wearing sunscreen? Despite its many virtues, the sun also has a darker side - it can be harmful to your skin. UV rays from the sun can cause sunburn, premature aging, and even skin cancer. This is where sunscreen comes to the rescue! Whether you're a seasoned sun worshipper or just stepping into the world of skincare, we've tapped the experts to give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about sunscreen.

Sunscreen 101 — The Basics 

In the pursuit of healthy skin, the resounding advice you'll hear is that you need sunscreen. A non-negotiable in your beauty arsenal, it functions as a frontline defense, protecting against the assault of UV rays seeking to wreak havoc on your skin. And before you ask, yes, you do need to wear SPF daily. Whether the sun is shining or not, or even indoors beside a sunlit window, wear sunscreen. Don't be fooled by those seemingly innocent clouds; they won't shield you from the sun damage that can still occur. So, apply well, and reapply often.

Walk down the sunscreen aisle, and you'll be met with a dizzying array of options. You’ll most likely see SPF, which stands for sun protection factor, followed by a number. But what does it really mean? Kristyl Defreitas, an esthetician, simplifies it for us, “SPF indicates how much longer you can stay in the sun without getting burned, compared to if you weren't wearing any sunscreen”. For daily use, a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen works. But, should your escapades lead you to prolonged outdoor soirées — poolside glamour, anyone? — consider ramping it up a notch with SPF 50 or beyond.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen 

When navigating sunscreens, it's not just about grabbing the nearest bottle and hoping for the best. It's a dance between understanding your unique skin and lifestyle.

First, consider your skin type. For those with oily skin, seek out oil-free and non-comedogenic formulas that won't provoke a rebellion from your pores. Dry skin mavens, opt for hydrating options that double as a moisture surge.

Ah, texture. It matters. Gone are the days when sunscreen meant slathering on a thick, chalky mask. Sunscreens today come with possibilities: gel-based, creamy lotions, and invisible mists. Choose what feels best on your skin and is compatible with your environment. After all, the best sunscreen, and most effective, is one you’re going to want to reach for. 

Let's not forget the multitaskers. We’re booked and busy, so why settle for a one-trick pony when you can have a multitasking marvel? Think those infused with antioxidants, moisturizers, or even a touch of coverage. Only protection? That’s so last season. 

How Much Sunscreen Should I Use?

SPF is the final step in your skincare routine, sandwiched before foundation. To achieve the recommended coverage, Dr. Crystal Haynes, a skincare authority, recommends applying  "2mg/cm² – enough to shield all exposed skin," or practically put: half teaspoon or two-finger lengths of sunscreen. Now this isn't a time to cut corners or play minimalist. Don't overlook vital areas like the chest, décolletage, lips, and ears. And remember, it's not a one-time deal. Dr. Haynes emphasizes the importance of reapplication every two hours, or more frequently during swimming or sweating. 

Debunking Sunscreen Myths 

Myth 1: Dark Skin Doesn't Need Sunscreen

All skin types and tones need protection from the sun. While darker skin may have more melanin, which provides some natural protection, it's not enough to ward off the harmful effects of UV radiation

Myth 2: Sunscreen Blocks Vitamin D Absorption

You can still get your daily dose of vitamin D with sunscreen on. A little sun exposure goes a long way, even if you're wearing your SPF shield.

Myth 3: All Sunscreens are the Same

Not all sunscreens are created equal. The type of protection they offer can vary, and you should choose a sunscreen that aligns with your skin type and sun exposure needs. The best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually wear. 

TL;DR: Sunscreen isn't just a summer fling. Whether beachside or city strolling, make it a non-negotiable in your skincare routine. Your skin will thank you.

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