BY LOUISA AHLQVIST
Sunscreen isn’t just for preventing sunburn when you’re spending a day at the beach or going to Disney World. While we grow up learning that sunscreen’s SPF prevents sunburn, which is why we were slathered with it all summer long, SPF is actually a critical part of skincare year-round, whether you’re indoors or outdoors.
Let’s get educational.
What does sunscreen do?
Broad Spectrum or Full Spectrum sunscreen protects your skin from the ultraviolet light that comes from the sun. Unfortunately, because of climate change, the ozone layer has begun to deplete—increasing the risk of sun damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The two types of ultraviolet light that enter our atmosphere, also known as UV light, are UVA and UVB.
UVB rays are the kind that burns your skin. They affect your epidermis, which is the skin you see. If you live in the north, UVB rays are stronger in the summer and weaker in the winter, which is why you’re used to applying sunscreen to your body only in the summer. These are blocked by window glass.
UVA rays are penetrative into the skin and cause issues like age spots and wrinkles. They affect your dermis, which is underneath your outer layer of skin (epidermis) and contains connective tissue, hair follicles, and sweat glands. UVA rays can pass through window glass (more on this later!).
Too much exposure to both of these kinds of ultraviolet light can cause skin cancer! Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age or even location. In fact, 20% of Americans develop skin cancer at one point in their lives.
Benefits of Sunscreen
Sun damage is one cause of uneven skin tones, so using sunscreen daily helps prevent these effects. Wearing sunscreen is also one way to protect your skin against visible signs of premature aging and lowers your risk of skin cancer. Overexposure to UV rays can increase not only your chances of developing skin cancer, but also the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and even sagging.
Proteins, like keratin, are responsible for keeping the skin smooth and healthy—both appearance-wise and function—and when sunscreen is applied, these proteins are protected.
Sunscreen is especially important if you use any kind of treatment on your skin, whether at night or during the day, like salicylic acid, PHA, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C. Even if you’re moisturizing afterward, your skin is still more exposed after these treatments leading to increased vulnerability. Any progress you could make with those treatments will be nullified by UV rays. So if you want your skin to make progress, in addition to treating it, you need to protect it.
So let’s say you’re spending a cozy day at home and it’s raining outside. The sun isn’t out, so no sunscreen needed, right? Wrong! UVA rays can penetrate your skin through windows, meaning your skin is still vulnerable even if you’re spending the day inside the house. UV rays, in general, are present anytime the sun is up—even if you can’t see it (like a rainy day at home) so you need to use sunscreen on rainy days just as much as sunny days!
When Looking for Sunscreen...
When you’re looking for sunscreen, there are two musts: (1) broad-spectrum protection and (2) SPF 30+. Broad-spectrum sunscreen offers both UVA and UVB protection, which prevents both burning and deeper damage, and dermatologists recommend sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays, and although SPF higher than 30 does block more rays, no sunscreen can block 100 percent.
Side note: Seek out a fragrance-free formula so it won’t feel like you’re about to go to the beach every morning!
Actually Wearing It Every Day
The best way to incorporate sunscreen into your morning skincare routine is by using a moisturizer containing SPF. If you want more protection, it’s actually best to layer over it with a tinted sunscreen—tinted sunscreens usually get their pigment from iron or zinc oxide, which increases UVA and UVB protection when combined with a moisturizer containing SPF.
Sunscreen should go everywhere that is exposed to the sun—even your eyelids.
So now that you’ve learned all this, here are the best rated (and affordable!) SPF moisturizers and tinted sunscreens according to aestheticians and dermatologists!
Applying sunscreen daily may seem excessive, unnecessary, and an inconvenient extra step in the morning. But it’s critical to maintaining the health and appearance of your skin: both short term and long term!
Special thanks to these sources: