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
SPF for melanated skin – ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Ultralight tinted mineral sunscreen
- Protect, repair, and correct skin
- Lightweight, 100% mineral tinted sunscreen offering broad spectrum protection
- Versatile tint provides the perfect finish, for flawless, even-toned skin
- Innovative formula uses a special blend of peptides, antioxidants, and DNA Repairsomes to repair existing sun damage and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
SPF for acne-prone skin – EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 moisturizing sunscreen
- This clear zinc oxide sunscreen lotion contains 9.0% zinc oxide and key antioxidants 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 including rosacea and hyperpigmentation or use this sunscreen for acne prone skin
- EltaMD UV Clear oil free sunscreen features key ingredients and is a sunscreen for oily skin to protect against breakouts and is an essential acne sunscreen for keeping your skin clear
- Broad-spectrum SPF 46 coverage ensures this sensitive skin sunscreen protects you from the sun and acts as a daily face sunscreen for your everyday skin care needs
- EltaMD UV Clear non greasy sunscreen sensitive skin lotion is a Dermatologist recommended fragrance free sunscreen that is paraben-free, sensitivity-free, and noncomedogenic for clearer and cleaner skin
SPF for dry skin – Supergoop Superscreen Daily Moisturizer SPF 40