Now that the sun is finally out, I’ve been getting questions from a few different folks about sunscreen. What are the best brands? Are the chemicals in them dangerous? Do I really need to wear one every day? So as we gear up for Memorial Day Weekend, and now that the weather is finally cooperating with us, let me break it down for you.
When you ask me about a good sunscreen, I’ll suggest 3-4 off the bat, but there’s usually more that I need to know about you and your skin. Are you fair, and burn easily? Do you work in an office for most of the day? What’s your budget? Are you on any medications Basically, like all other skin care products, not every SPF works for everyone.
On a budget
If you’re not looking to break the bank and want something easy to grab at the drugstore, go for Neutrogena (unless you’re shopping for your little one….more on that later). I’ve used most of the Neutrogena sunscreens and have always liked them. They last through sweat and swim, are lightweight, and don’t make me break out, which can be a common side effect of sunscreen. This is the one to go for when you’re on vacation and didn’t pack an SPF, because you can find their products anywhere. Neutrogena is the #1 rated sun-care line by dermatologists, and they rank well overall with the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Recently, Andy picked up Garnier’s SkinActive Clearly Brighter Anti-Sun Damage Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30. I’ve only used it twice now, but so far I like the coverage and it goes on really nicely with no greasiness at all. This product ranks fairly well with EWG, but Garnier’s other sunscreens rank even better, so I would not be afraid to try those either. All of these are also available at most drugstores, but might be a few bucks more than Neutrogena.
If you’re looking to invest a little more into your sun protection, I suggest Fresh Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen. It clocks in at $25 at most retailers, so you’re still not breaking the bank. This stick is great for lips, under eyes, and face. Like most of Fresh’s products, it smells really good. And, they’re super transparent about their ingredients, which I love.
Everyone knows that Kate Somerville is one of my favorite skin care lines. One of the best products for the summer is the Kate’s Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray with SPF 50. It helps keep your makeup in place in the summer heat (sweaty, drippy makeup is one of the most disgusting feelings in the world, and I want to wash my face just THINKING about it!) This stuff also reduces shine and mists on an SPF 50 for your face! It’s such a great product to keep in your purse all summer long. It’s less than $40, so it’s high end, but not high cost. Worth every penny!
Finally, you might be surprised to know that I’ve included a BeautyCounter product on my list. While I’m not a fan of their business model, I can’t deny that I like their products and commitment to healthy skin care. So, while I won’t toot their horn too much, they do make a Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick in SPF 30, and it’s hard to find a good stick SPF that doesn’t feel like you’re slathering deodorant onto your face! You can find this for about $20 on Goop’s website. I’d suggest buying it from Goop or a retailer and not one of their “beauty consultants” (don’t get me started).
Better for you (and Planet Earth)
Only lately have I started to pay more and more attention to labels. What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. I’ve mentioned how much I love EWG’s Healthy Living App that includes their Skin Deep and Food Scoring system because you can scan a food or cosmetic item and get an instant rating. It makes making a better choice a lot easier, because it’s literally just a click away in the palm of your hand. Plus, you know your phone is out anyway! While not every product I use is free of chemicals or comes in sustainable packaging, I am making efforts where I can and trying to make better choices. If this a priority for you too, especially when it comes to SPF and knowing what is harmful and what isn’t, I suggest checking out EWG’s Sun Sampler Pack. If you want to become more knowledgeable about sun safety, you can check our their Sun Safety Campaign, sunscreen database, and list of sunscreens to avoid on your little ones (their skin absorbs ingredients much faster than ours, so it’s extra important to avoid chemicals in their products!)
As I mentioned, the best sunscreen for your depends on your skin, your budget, and your circumstances. These products have all worked well for me, but they may not be right for you. There are a lot of stories out there about how harmful the chemicals in some sunscreens are. I hate to tell you, but there’s harmful chemicals in a lot of stuff, which is why knowledge, research, and due diligence is key. Nowadays, it seems like everything can kill us. But the sun is no joke. I’ve had sun poisoning on my back from being young and reckless, well before my education about skin care. While most of the products I mentioned are mostly for your face, Neutrogena does make a full suite of products for your whole body. I stay away from Coppertone and Banana Boat because I can’t make out what most of their ingredients are, and I’ve found that even when I’ve used them, I’ve still gotten a sunburn, so, hello….whatever those ingredients were, they were not effective.
I know most people don’t want to hear this, but yes, you need to wear an SPF daily! I am saying this louder for the people in the back. And yes, I mean year round, people! Even on cloudy day, you’re even more likely to be exposed to sun damage because you don’t think you need any protection…but those UV rays are still breaking through! We associate the sun with the summer, but the sun is there year round, not just when you feel it. Think about how bright it can be when the sun comes out after a blizzard and reflects off of all that whiteness! Of course, in the winter, when we’re physically further from the sun, you can go with a less intense SPF, and increase the amount in the spring and summer. The level of SPF you should use truly depends on your skin and lifestyle. If you need help determining that, see your dermatologist!
For me, I wear a foundation that has a light SPF built in for most of the year, which sufficiently protects me since I spend 99% of my day indoors, especially in the winter. Once Spring arrives, I add in an SPF to my daily morning routine. And, when I’m going to be out in the sun for a prolonged amount of time, I do an SPF on my entire body, including my scalp, because that’s always wear I burn first. It hurts, and is not a good look when it starts to peel!
So, when don’t you need an SPF? Bedtime! Once you wash your face for the evening, use your standard moisturizer, one without an SPF. Wearing an SPF to bed is pointless and detrimental for several reasons, the obvious being that you’re now indoors and it’s dark! Also, even the best sunscreens can clog your pores when you leave them on for that long overnight, but at least when you’re in the sun, they’re working! Overnight, they’ll just gunk you up, and we don’t want that! And finally, why waste money on a quality SPF and where it to bed? Invest in a good night cream instead!
Finally, if you’re on any particular medications or using any skin care products with acids (lactic, salicylic, glycolic and mostly, alpha hydroxy), you’ll need a stronger SPF, and you should never go in the sun while wearing those products. When in doubt, consult your physician about sun exposure! Also, don’t forget that staying hydrated also helps to keep you safe in the sun, as does protecting your eyes! So fill up that reusable water bottle and throw on your sunnies too!