Is your skincare regimen longer than your grocery list, and costing you a fortune, too? With money tight and time precious, it may be time to revisit your skincare priorities. As a dermatologist, I often get asked about the best way to maintain a young-appearing and even complexion. My answer?
Here’s why sunscreen should be the star of your skincare routine.
Sunscreen use can help prevent wrinkles, brown spots and blotchy skin.
Over time, repeated sun exposure can lead to prominent pores, unwanted redness, brown spots, wrinkles, and uneven skin texture. Together, these make up the tell-tale signs of photoaging, or the component of skin aging that is due to damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays, and in particular, ultraviolet A (UVA), which is one type of harmful light emitted from the sun that reaches the skin even on cloudy days. UVA also transmits through window glass, unlike ultraviolet B (UVB), which is the main culprit in sunburns. Ponder this: anytime you are near a window, i.e., your car, or your living room, you could be getting exposed to aging UVA rays. And that adds up over time.
Here’s where sunscreen comes into play. Sunscreen contains UV filters that help block these rays, and with daily use, can help protect you from unexpected exposures throughout the day. The term “broad-spectrum” on sunscreen labels refers to protection against both UVA and UVB.
Tinted formulations may provide extra beauty benefits.
Tinted sunscreens have been gaining traction recently due to their inclusive shades for all skin tones (read: bye-bye white residue). In addition to containing filters that block UV light (broad-spectrum), these sunscreens contain iron oxides and pigmentary titanium dioxide which form a colored base that blocks visible light.
Visible light is emitted from the sun and passes through window glass, similar to UVA, but may also come from surprising sources, like device screens. Non-tinted, broad-spectrum sunscreens that rub on clear do not offer adequate protection from visible light. Why? Simply put, sunscreen must be visible on the skin to protect against visible light (more about that here). This is notable because visible light may exacerbate brown spots, especially in people with dark skin, or those prone to hyperpigmentation (spots or patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding skin). For this reason, iron-oxide containing tinted sunscreens are considered a must by certain experts for people with melasma, a type of hyperpigmentation. You can read more about melasma here.
Many sunscreens are formulated with skin-loving ingredients.
Want a sunscreen that packs the ultimate healthy-skin punch? Choose a sunscreen that contains antioxidants (protectors from free-radicals) or moisture-grabbing ingredients. Two dermatologist favorites? Niacinamide (vitamin B3) and hyaluronic acid.
Niacinamide is an antioxidant that has been shown to improve overall skin appearance and melasma. Hyaluronic acid is a molecule that is critical to skin hydration. Evidence suggests that hyaluronic acid is lost with age, especially on the top layer of the skin, resulting in reduced ability of the skin to suck up and retain water. Choosing sunscreens with either or both of these ingredients helps to ensure that you maximize the skin benefits from this single step.
The sunscreen in your makeup may not cut it.
While many foundations tout added sunscreen on their labels, the listed sun protection factor, or SPF (which conveys how well the sunscreen blocks UV) is often lower than the recommended SPF of 30 or higher. Additionally, the amount of makeup needed to achieve that SPF is generally much more than what is routinely used. As such, sunscreen should be applied liberally to the face and neck before your make-up to help ensure adequate protection. Your lips need love, too, so be sure to use a lip product with an SPF of at least 30 to keep them looking young and healthy.
Make sure you don’t skimp on sunscreen application in order to reap the benefits. You need about 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin, which roughly equates to a nickel-sized dollop to cover the entire face. Hitting the beach or taking a long hike? Don’t forget to reapply every two hours, seek shade and wear sun protective clothing (i.e. broad-rimmed hat, sunglasses).
In addition to preventing photoaging, regular sunscreen use is a critical component of preventing sunburns and skin cancers.
You can read more about that here.