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Houston is notorious for 80-degree temperatures in the spring, so it’s time for that annual reminder to apply sunscreen — and a lot of it. From poolside layouts to backyard crawfish boils, it’s not uncommon to find yourself outside almost every day, starting now until the end of September. And without sun protection, you run the risk of premature aging, unwanted wrinkles, sunspots and skin cancer.
“Houston is known for its harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays and a high UV index that constantly bombards the skin year-round,” says Rachael Rowland, MSN, FNP-C. “Wearing sunscreen year-round is crucial for this area.”
When it comes to the most qualified, dermatologists and aestheticians sit at the helm of experts to trust with insight on sunscreen myths: The proper amount of sunscreen to apply to the face and body, the multiple types of sunscreen on the market, and recommendations on reapplying without ruining your makeup.
Dr. Quynh-Giao Sartor, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology, and Rowland, an aesthetic nurse practitioner at Houston’s SkinSpirit, spoke to Houstonia on the nonnegotiable skin-care product everyone should have in their daily routine: a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Common misconceptions about sunscreen
You may have heard the persistent controversies surrounding sunscreen, such as the higher the sun protection factor (SPF), the longer you can wait before reapplying or it only needs to be applied once a day. While the truth is that slathering it on your face and body won’t necessarily prevent sunburn, ongoing sun exposure will have long-term consequences.
To maximize sunscreen efficacy, Dr. Sartor says the following factors should be considered: Selecting a sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage to protect against UVA (skin aging) and UVB (skin burning) damage, applying the sunscreen generously and evenly across all exposed skin surfaces, applying sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplying sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or swimming.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure but to the amount of exposure. “Higher SPF is better since the majority of people apply less than 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen and, as a result, reduce the amount of SPF they receive,” says Dr. Sartor.
But just because you’re wearing SPF 60 or SPF 100 doesn’t mean that your skin is invincible in the sun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that clouds do not block UV rays. So even on cool, cloudy days, sunscreen is a must.
How much product is enough for head-to-toe coverage?
We’re all guilty of this — not applying enough sunscreen. We even neglect the neck and décolletage, which are commonly exposed in the spring and summer thanks to V-neck tops or flirty frocks with thin straps. “For most adults, 1 ounce of sunscreen should be applied to the body and 0.04 ounces to the face, ears, and neck,” says Dr. Sartor.
Other commonly forgotten areas include the hairline, temples, ears, and the area directly under the eye.
For reference, 1 ounce is about a shot glass amount and 0.04 ounces is about the size of a nickel.
Physical vs. chemical sunscreens — What’s the difference?
Having access to a variety of sunscreen products on the market can feel overwhelming and confusing. While the never-ending debate on physical (or mineral) versus chemical sunscreen comes down to personal preference, both Dr. Sartor and Rowland agree that physical sunscreen is the way to go.
“Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which scatter and reflect UV energy out of the skin,” Dr. Sartor says. “Chemical sunscreens contain agents that absorb UV energy and eventually transform it into heat.”
For those with sensitive or acne-prone skin, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a mineral sunscreen instead of a chemical sunscreen. The downside to mineral sunscreens is that the formulations tend to be thicker and can often leave a white cast on deeper skin tones, while chemical sunscreens are lighter and not as goopy or hard to spread.
For those with visible tattoos, Rowland recommends brands such as ColoreScience and SkinBetter. She notes that it’s important to remember to not apply sunscreen until the tattoo is fully healed so covering up with long layers will be your best bet this summer.
“Sunscreen is not known to ruin tattoos; it protects them from the damaging UV rays,” says Rowland. “Waterproof is the best option, and physical sunscreen is recommended versus chemical sunscreen.”
How does one reapply sunscreen when wearing makeup? Does it differ depending on the skin type?
Sunscreen should be applied to a clean face and typically last in your routine — after serum or moisturizer. SPF 30 is an ideal option for daily wear and this can be in the form of liquid, powder, or stick. To reapply without disrupting your makeup, Dr. Sartor suggests a powder sunscreen because it is suitable for all skin types and, oftentimes, appears translucent on many different skin tones.
Those with oily skin who prefer a mattifying effect will find that powder sunscreen is best for an added layer of protection. And it’s easy to have in your makeup bag while on the go. Anyone with dry skin should seek out products with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to boost moisture.
Dermatologist-Approved Sunscreens You Need This Summer
Bonus: Can be found at Houston-area shops, medical spas, and dermatologist offices.
The ColoreScience Sunforgettable Brush-On Shield is an on-the-go option that can be worn alone or over makeup.
SkinBetter’s sheer SPF 56 sunscreen compact offers a weightless, transparent, silky-smooth formula with a mattifying finish.
Suntegrity can be found at Switch2Pure, a clean beauty and wellness destination in River Oaks. It’s a non-greasy, chemical-free sunscreen infused with antioxidants like hyaluronic acid and red algae. Additionally, the certified organic aloe vera, jojoba, sunflower, pomegranate, cucumber, and green tea provide not only sun protection, but also moisture and hydration.
For those with acne-prone skin, turn to EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46. It’s a lightweight, oil-free sunscreen that also protects sensitive skin.
For those seeking a clean, cruelty-free option, Intelligent Elixirs clinically driven Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 30 offers three shades (natural, golden, and tan), and each will help protect your skin, collagen, and elastin from UV rays. This multitasking product doubles as a makeup primer and provides coverage that will make you want to skip foundation.
Created with pregnant women in mind, BABESHADE is a tinted sunscreen brand created by lifestyle blogger Chiara Casiraghi. The only active ingredient is the 25% non-nano zinc oxide, which the FDA recommends is best for children and pregnant women. The tinted formula comes in two shades and will not leave you with a white cast residue.