An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Wearing sunscreen is the cheapest way to fight off aging skin. Wearing sunscreen on a daily basis can help prevent your skin from showing those pesky signs of premature aging like fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation (skin discoloration), capillary damage and the breakdown of collagen and elastin. According to skincancer.org, 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by sun exposure. Putting the beauty factor aside, wearing sunscreen can also save your life by reducing your chances of getting skin cancer.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to wear sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that the first mistake people make when applying sunscreen is that they don’t wear enough of it. When applying sunscreen to the face, you should be using the amount of one teaspoon. That’s about the size of a quarter. When applying sunscreen to the entire body, you should be using one ounce. That’s the size of a shot glass.
Another thing people screw up about wearing sunscreen is that they don’t reapply it. It’s not enough that you slap on the right amount of sunscreen in the morning and call it a day. It sounds like a pain in the ass, but you have to reapply sunscreen every two hours in order to be protected throughout the day. You might not be the lucky bastard who gets to sleep poolside all day, but UV rays can still reach your skin even when you think you’re protected inside through windows, windshields, glass and clothing. Think you don’t have to wear sunscreen on a cloudy day? Think again. Forty percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the Earth on a completely cloudy day.
Not all sunscreens are created equal. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30. Broad-spectrum sunscreen means that you are protected from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are responsible for tanning (aging) your skin and breaking down the skin’s collagen and elastin. UVB rays are responsible for burning your skin, causing sunburns.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF is just the reference point of how much protection your skin will have against UVB rays. SPF represents the amount of time your skin can be in direct sunlight before it starts to burn.
When it comes to SPF, keep in mind that more is not always better. According to the FDA, the SPF testing system is unable to accurately measure anything above an SPF 50. Don’t waste your money on an SPF over 50 because the FDA can’t prove that it will be any more effective. Even the Skin Cancer Foundation believes that anything over an SPF 50 is unnecessary.
Shopping for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an appropriate SPF doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of great sunscreen drugstore buys. Shop for a sunscreen that not only fits your budget, but also is designed for your own skin type and meets your specific type of sun exposure.
Sensitive skin types should use a physical sunscreen. A physical sunscreen means that the ingredients will deflect UV light, making it less irritating on the skin. Ingredients to look for in a physical sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Drugstore Buy: Aveeno Natural Protection Sunblock Lotion with SPF 30, $10.99
Dry skin types should use a sunscreen with a creamy formula. Look for hydrating ingredients such as oat protein, sodium hyaluronate, omega 3s and essential fatty acids. For extra hydration, apply the sunscreen when skin is still damp. Drugstore Buy: Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defense SPF 50, $13.99
Acne prone skin types should look for lightweight sunscreens that are labeled “oil-free.” Avoid anything that contains mineral oil, paraffin wax, liquid paraffin and petrolatum. Drugstore Buy: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture SPF 35, $10.99
Anti-aging junkies should look for a sunscreen that is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants provide an extra boost of protection in the fight against free radical damage, wrinkles and even skin cancer. To get the ultimate anti-aging benefits from your sunscreen, apply an anti-aging serum first. Then lock it in with your antioxidant rich sunscreen moisturizer. Drugstore Buy: Eucerin Everyday Protection SPF 30 Face Lotion, $8.99
Image courtesy of illustrator Mark A. Hicks