UV Rays: A love/hate relationship
Summer will be here before you know it. You’re so looking forward to hitting up the beach, but UV rays are like that high school crush your mom warned you about: bad news, babe. Protect yourself.
If goth chic is your aesthetic, or if you suffer any type of sun sensitivity (more on that later), you probably have a love/hate relationship with the sun. Personally speaking, I love the warmth on my skin, the much-needed vitamin D, and being able to lounge in the sunroom with my cat. Do I look forward to slathering myself with thick, greasy sunscreen every 90 minutes? Not so much. At least not until I found the products mentioned below. Before I dive into the best dermatologist-recommended sunscreens for people who hate sunscreen, let me debunk some common skin protection myths.
Worst myth ever: UV rays hibernate in winter. Ask any dermatologist on the planet to name the biggest skincare mistake they come across on a daily basis and 100% of them will mention sunscreen (or the lack thereof) in some way, shape, or form. Even seasoned beauty enthusiasts with otherwise thorough routines often skimp on the SPF when summer is over. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, however, there is no good time to “let the sun shine” when it comes to maintaining healthy skin because the sun emits harmful UV rays year-round, even on cloudy days. They recommend applying sunscreen any time you plan on going outside.
Cracking the Code: Finding the Right Sunscreen for You
To block 97 percent of the sun’s rays, dermatologists recommend using at least SPF 30, but SPF 50+ is preferred. For the best sun protection, a broad spectrum sunscreen – one that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation – is essential. UVA rays age your skin, causing premature wrinkles and sun spots. These youthsuckers are strong enough to penetrate glass. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn. They don’t penetrate glass, but any exposure at all puts you at risk for skin cancer. When it comes to broad spectrum sunscreens, I prefer to shop from Japanese brands because their PA grading system clearly informs users of the level of protection from UVA rays. In America, we tend to focus on the SPF number, but Japanese sunscreens prominently feature a PA rating of one to four plus signs signifying a product’s level of UVA protection. This grading system was adopted from the Persistent Pigment Darkening method. The highest PA grade is PA++++, so if you’re looking to prevent skin cancer and maintain your vampire-like complexion, PA++++ is the way to go.
Finally, sunscreens can be chemical or mineral (also sometimes called “physical”). Chemical sunscreens are easy to rub in and absorb the sun’s rays; mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and deflect the sun’s rays. Mineral sunscreens contain inert UV protective ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and are more likely to leave a white cast but may be gentler on sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate and work by converting UV rays into heat which is then released from the skin. Because chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, they have a greater potential risk for irritation. If you find your body’s chemistry jives with chemical sunscreen but are looking for extra protection, consider trying a combination chemical/mineral sunscreen like my absolute favorite mentioned below (no spoilers!).
How to Apply Sunscreen (the Right Way)
The recommended usage of sunscreen is 1/4 teaspoon for the face and 1.5 oz (or the size of a small shot glass) for the body. Before you write off this method based on previous greasy, sticky, pore-clogging experiences, try this pro tip: apply in layers. When I’m applying sunscreen to my face, I make a line up and down my index finger once for my cheeks, a second time for my chin and forehead, and then repeat the process. Doing it this way ensures you are applying the proper dose but also gives each layer a chance to sink into your skin as opposed to sitting on top of it the way it would if you applied it all at once.
Now that you know why you should never be caught dead without sunscreen, are you ready to commit to healthy skin? For a set-it-and-forget-it (at least for 90 minutes) experience, add one of these sun-blocking superheroes to your daily regimen:
1. Best Lightweight Sunscreen for Face: This Cult-Favorite Japanese Water-Based Sunscreen
When it comes to sun protection, Japan knows what it’s doing. From the country that invented the Protection Grade system (PA) to measure UVA protection, this water-based chemical sunscreen doesn’t disappoint. In addition to its SPF 50+ PA++++ sun protection, Biore’s Watery Essence sunscreen is good for your skin, too. As far as sunscreens go, the Watery Essence is the perfect trifecta: hydrating, waterproof, and lightweight. Its unique “water capsule” technology forms a water-resistant barrier on the surface of your skin while hyaluronic acid and royal jelly extract work under that barrier to retain moisture. Throw out that post-sunburn aloe vera. With Biore UV Aqua Rich, your skin will never need it again.
2. Best Eco-Friendly, Kid-Friendly, Travel-Friendly Sunscreen: This Vegan, Cruelty-Free Mineral Sunscreen Stick
Multi-task with this reef-safe, purse-safe mineral sunscreen stick. Great for moms on-the-go, this gentle formula is the best sunscreen for toddlers that won’t explode in a crowded purse. Goddess Garden’s baby sunscreen stick is reef-safe, vegan and Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free. Its non-nano minerals offer powerful broad-spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 50 protection along with organic shea butter and nourishing coconut oil, making this formula a godsend for even the most finicky complexions. Unlike some mineral sunscreens, the Goddess Garden Mineral Sunscreen Stick doesn’t leave a white residue. Its non-greasy formula is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and its light lavender scent is naturally derived.
3. Best Once-a-Day Sunscreen: This Stage-5 Clinger Sunscreen Spray
According to dermatologists, there’s no true once-a-day sunscreen but this quick-drying spray-on “sun filter” deserves an A for effort. According to the manufacturer, a single application of this chemical sunscreen provides 10 hours of continuous protection. Frequent reapplier that I am, I’ve never put this claim to the test, but I will tell you this: I suffer from a skin condition that causes sun sensitivity and Riemann’s P20 Sun Filter is the only sunscreen I bring to the beach. I don’t know how they do what they do, but I will cry salty tears from under my beach umbrella if they ever stop doing it.
4. Best All-Around Sunscreen: This Silky Smooth Chemical/Mineral Hybrid That Doubles as a Makeup Primer
So, I’ve saved the best for last. I love all the other sunscreens on this list, but I have a straight up LOVE AFFAIR with this combination chemical/physical sunscreen from Rohto. It checks all the boxes: SPF 50, PA++++, a lightweight, satiny texture that I swear IMPROVES my complexion and makes makeup application a breeze, and waterproof protection! The list goes on, as does my youthful glow with this silicone-smooth product in my arsenal. With ingredients like hyaluronic acid (2 different types!), amino acid, collagen, and (you guessed it) H2O, Rohto’s Skin Aqua UV Super Moisture Milk is a treat for your skin. Its waterproof protection, skin-loving ingredient list, and most of all, unparalleled all-day comfort win Rohto the bragging rights for my #1 choice for sunscreen protection, hands down.
Do you have a favorite sunscreen for daily use? If so, let me know in the comments!