A Dermatologist Debunks The Most Common SPF Myths and Shares Her Top Picks

A Dermatologist Debunks The Most Common SPF Myths and Shares Her Top PicksPin
Credit: Brand

For whatever reason, there’s a lot of different ideas around SPF; from whether or not you need it based on your skin tone, to how much you need, to which sunscreens are the best, and even to what it does. So, we asked Dr. Cula MD, PhD and dermatology resident from Cherie community to help us answer some of the most common SPF questions. We hope her expert opinion debunks some common SPF myths and gets our community to do the most important step of skincare: applying SPF every. single. day!

Question 1: It’s cold and the sun is barely out! I don’t need sunscreen, right?

“Wrong! Don’t let the clouds fool you. UV rays can still penetrate them and cause major skin damage. While there are fewer burning rays aka UVB during the winter, the aging rays aka UVA, are potent year-round. In addition, snow and ice can reflect up to 80% of UV rays, so the rays hit you twice. As a consequence, you are getting a significant amount of UV rays even on cloudy days. So, even if you are less likely to get a sunburn during the winter, UVA rays are still present causing premature aging and increasing your risk of skin cancer. Even if you are mostly indoors due to the cold weather, you still should not skip sunscreen. UVA penetrates glass windows and blue light from too much screen time may also damage the skin. So, I recommend sun protection to my patients all day and every day, regardless of the weather or time of the year. ”

Question 2: Does reapplying really even matter?

“Depends. Generally, sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, with sun exposure to compensate for initial under application so as to achieve an SPF more in line with the rated value and to replace sunscreen that may have been removed by water, vigorous toweling, or friction with clothing or sand. So with active sun exposure, reapplying is strongly recommended to help prevent the harmful effects of the sun. However, If you work indoors and sit away from windows you often do not need a second application. In any case for midday touchups there are many loose powder sunscreen formulation that makes reapplication very convenient.”

Question 3: I have an SPF 15 in my foundation, so I don’t need a regular sunscreen, right?

“SPF makeup is not a substitute for a standalone sunscreen. First, most SPF makeup only protects against the burning rays (UVB), leaving your skin vulnerable to the aging rays (UVA). Second, there is no way you are putting on enough sunscreen to achieve the rated SPF. A teaspoon of sunscreen is usually recommended for your face to achieve the rated SPF. I recommend using a physical blocker sunscreen SPF 30 and letting it absorb into your skin for a few minutes before doing your makeup over it.”

Question 4: The sun heals acne, doesn’t it?

“No. In fact, the sun actually aggravates acne. The sun dries out the skin which eventually leads to increase sebum production. Increase sebum production, in acne-prone skin, often translate to more breakout. ”

Question 5: I don’t see a difference in my skin wearing SPF! What is it supposed to do?

“Sunscreen protects from the harmful effect of the sun such as sunburn and premature aging (i.e wrinkles, sunspots). In so doing, it decreases your risk of getting skin cancer over time. With daily sunscreen use, you are slowing down the development of wrinkles, keeping younger. In addition, daily sunscreen uses helps maintain an overall even skin tone by preventing the development of sunspots as well as preventing the development/worsening of skin discoloration. The caveat is that the effects of routine sun protection are cumulative and are not immediately evident. Patience is key as nothing looks as good in your 50s as sunscreen in your 20s. So, trust the process.”

Question 6: Ok, I’m convinced to get an SPF! But what’s the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreens are organic because they contain carbon-based compounds. They are absorbing because they absorb UV rays and then neutralize them, releasing heat. There is an increased change of irritation and stinging due to the combination of multiple ingredients in order to provide both UVA and UVB protection.

Physical sunscreens are inorganic because they contain active mineral ingredients (Zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide). They are reflecting because they form a shield over your skin following application, reflecting sun rays. They are naturally broad spectrum, thus blocks against both UVA and UVB. Compared to chemical sunscreen, they often leave a white cast. However, now with improved formulation, there are a lot more options for skin of color.

Dr. Cula’s Top SPF Picks

Overall best SPF – Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Glow SPF 50, Glow, 1.8 Fl OzPin Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Glow SPF 50, Glow, 1.8... @ Amazon

SPF for melanated skin – ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Ultralight tinted mineral sunscreen
ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Zinc Oxide 3.4 Fl. Oz.Pin ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Zinc Oxide 3.4 Fl. Oz. @ Amazon

  • Protects: Provides high broad spectrum protection, using zinc oxide to block the sun’s harmful rays and reduce the risk of sun damage.
  • Repairs: Addresses previous sun damage and supports collagen in the skin to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Corrects: Provides the perfect finish with a versatile tint, which helps skin look more even in tone and corrects visible imperfections.

SPF for acne-prone skin – EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 moisturizing sunscreen
EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Face Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin and Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-Free Mineral-Based Sunscreen Lotion with Zinc Oxide, Dermatologist Recommended, 1.7 oz PumpPin EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Face Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for Sensitive... @ Amazon

  • EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 face sunscreen for oily skin contains 9.0% Zinc Oxide, Niacinamide and an antioxidant to promote healthy skin while blocking harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun
  • Apply this face sunscreen for sensitive skin daily to help soothe sensitive skin types prone to acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation
  • EltaMD UV Clear oil free sunscreen protects against breakouts and is an essential acne sunscreen for those with acne prone skin care concerns
  • Broad-spectrum SPF 46 coverage ensures this sensitive skin sunscreen helps protect you from the sun and is a daily face sunscreen for your everyday skin care needs
  • This Zinc Oxide sunscreen is a non greasy sunscreen sensitive skin lotion recommended by Dermatologists that is fragrance-free, paraben-free, sensitivity-free, and noncomedogenic

SPF for dry skin – Supergoop Superscreen Daily Moisturizer SPF 40
Supergoop! Superscreen - 1.7 fl oz - SPF 40 PA+++ Hydrating Daily Moisturizer - Reef-Friendly Sunscreen - Protection from UV Rays + Helps Filter Pollution & Blue LightPin Supergoop! Superscreen - 1.7 fl oz - SPF 40 PA+++ Hydrating Daily Moisturizer -... @ Amazon

  • DOES-IT-ALL DAILY MOISTURIZER - Supergoop! Superscreen is a hydrating daily moisturizer & SPF 40 sunscreen in one, protecting your skin from UVA rays, UVB rays & infrared radiation, plus helping to filter blue light & pollution.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT TEXTURE - This lightweight, easy-to-absorb moisturizing cream has a bouncy texture that melts into the skin and leaves it feeling soft, smooth and hydrated.
  • PROTECTIVE INGREDIENTS - Our formula features a naturally occurring combination of moisturizers, antioxidants and skin repairing actives harvested from blue-green algae.
  • REEF-FRIENDLY SUNSCREEN - Oxybenzone and octinoxate-free, Superscreen absorbs easily and is perfect for any skin type or tone in need of a moisture boost!
  • HOW TO APPLY - Apply generously and evenly as the last step in your skincare routine and 15 minutes before sun exposure. Superscreen works beautifully under primer and makeup, or can be worn completely on its own.

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