Dermatologists Share The Best Sunscreen for Every Skin Type
Now that the weather is (finally!) warming up, it’s time for some fun in the sun. And you wouldn’t do that without slathering yourself in sunscreen first, right? To get the most out of your sunscreen, find one that works with your specific skin type. “When a formula is appropriate for a particular skin type or condition it will feel good on that person’s skin, making it more likely that they will use it every day,” says Suneel Chilukuri, MD, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Founder of Refresh Dermatology in Houston, Texas. “Sunscreen is the most important part of your regimen for protecting your skin from damage and potentially skin cancer, so having a formula feel good and help your skin in other ways aside from just sun protection — moisture, light texture, tint — makes it a pleasure to use, not an imposition.”
Obviously your skin type isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when shopping for sunscreen. “Look at ingredients and SPF numbers — I like at least SPF 30 in a day cream every day,” says New York City-based Dermatologist Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. “For being on the beach, 50 or higher is a must. Chemical sunscreens tend to be better if you break a sweat or want something that blends in well. Physical works better in general, but can leave a white film. If you are just hanging out outdoors, go with physical sunscreen when possible.”
Your sunscreen won’t do you any good if you don’t apply it correctly. “Pretty much everyone doesn’t apply enough,” says Bhanusali. “In order to get the full amount of SPF, you need about one ounce (or a shot glass full) each time you apply! If not the skin cancer prevention, it’s also the best thing to do to prevent sun damage and premature aging.” Be sure to apply 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply if you get in the water or break a sweat. Don’t forget to cover exposed areas like the neck, chest, hands and arms. Look for broad spectrum protection to ensure you’re being protected from the whole spectrum of UV light. As an added bonus, keep an eye out for formulas that contain antioxidants that boost skin protection.
And don’t forget to apply it every single day — really! “A common mistake is not applying sunscreen because it is cloudy outside or you will not be outdoors,” Chilukuri says. “Remember that more than 80% of the sun’s UV rays are still present on a cloudy day and can lead to sun damage. Indoors, research has shown UV exposure still occurs when sitting in any setting that has fluorescent lighting.” Also, many women think that they don’t need to use sunscreen if their foundation contains SPF, but most women do not apply enough foundation to actually provide full protection. Even if your foundation contains SPF, apply your sunscreen first.
Our experts share their favorite sunscreens for every skin type.
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“Many people mistakenly think they are sensitive to sunscreens in general, yet it is usually products that contain fragrances and colors that can have phototoxic reactions in the sun,” Chilukuri says. “Well-formulated sunscreens that are the right formula for a particular person’s skin type and condition should not cause sensitivity. I like PCA Skin Sheer Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 45 for these patients not only for its universal tint, but it also contains the antioxidant ubiquinone for additional protection.”
Sunscreen can help you turn back the clock! “Because most patients who are aging begin to have reduced sebum production and need more moisture, I usually recommend Alastin Hydratint,” Chilukuri says. “Sunscreen is the most important anti-aging product in anyone’s regimen, so providing antioxidants and sunscreen in the patient’s daily moisturizer is a good strategy.”
“This skin type can be tricky and these patients may have to change their SPF product depending on the time of year,” Chilukuri says. “My all-time favorite sunscreen for almost every patient is SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair. It is not drying nor does it exacerbate those areas that tend to produce more oil. The greatest advantage of this product is its reparative properties for sun damaged skin and its ability to help those patients prone to hyperpigmentation or melasma.”
When you’re already prone to shine, the last thing you want is something that will leave you with an oil slick, so look for mattifying formulas. “Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 30 almost looks matte,” says Bhanusali. “It delivers great protection and our patients tend to really enjoy it.”
“I think one of the best ways to ensure that my patients use their sun protection every day is to put it into their daily moisturizer,” Chilukuri says. “A good over-the-counter moisturizer with sunscreen is Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen.”
You’ll need a sunscreen that will stand up to your workout. “My favorite product for those patients who are very active in the sun is A-Cute Derm Pro-Tect Sunscreen,” Chilukuri says. “It has a lighter texture than most water-resistant formulas and does not run on the skin due to sweating. Even with sweat pouring on the face, it won’t cause burning or irritation of the eyes.”
“This condition will likely need some type of topical intervention to keep it under control, but it is best to use SPF products that contain a higher level of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as they also provide some anti-inflammatory benefits,” Chilukuri says. “A great OTC product is Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 50, which provides broad spectrum protection with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.”
“Many patients with acne are reluctant to apply SPF as they believe it will worsen their condition,” Chilukuri says. “This is not true, if the right formula is selected. Inflammation is one of the key drivers of acne, so getting burned by the sun will exacerbate acne. I recommend Elta MD UV Clear since it absorbs quickly and is non-comedogenic.”
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