Ask almost any dermatologist and they'll tell you that the best type of sunscreen is one that you'll use consistently every day.
Yes, every day. Properly protecting your skin from the sun includes applying lotion to exposed areas every time you step outside. According to Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a board-certified dermatologist and the President and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Physicians, our skin is susceptible to damage from the sun 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Bailey says that too many people commonly believe their skin is safe on a cloudy day. She also points out that it's important to use protection in the morning, the late afternoon and even when you're in the shade. In other words, there's no time of day or type of weather when your skin is safe from the sun.
This means that picking a suitable sunscreen is a pretty important decision. Luckily, there are plenty you can choose from. In fact, there are so many different brands and types that you might feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to pick the best kind.
Bailey recommends buying mineral-based products that are made with zinc oxide. She says that it is one of only two broad spectrum ingredients approved by the FDA that effectively protects against UVB and UVA rays, including UV-A1 rays, which are the most harmful type.
"They are the most intense, are out all day, all year and penetrate the skin most deeply," she says.
She also recommends avoiding sun care products that include avobenzone and oxybenzone.
"Avobenzone products are not stable. They break down once formulated and they break down when they neutralize UV rays on your skin," says Bailey. "Oxybenzone products are absorbed through your skin and the chemical has been demonstrated to be a hormone disruptor."
Both ingredients are extremely common in many popular brand name sunscreens, so it's a good idea to double check ingredient labels before purchasing a new bottle. Another controversial sunscreen ingredient to look out for: alpha hydroxy acids.
"Consumers who want to be extra cautious might avoid those sunscreens," says Dr. Jeffery Benabio, a board-certified dermatologist and the Physician Director of Healthcare Transformation at Kaiser Permanente.
That being said, both dermatologists emphasized the fact that not using sunscreen is far more dangerous than exposure to any of the ingredients that might be used to make it.
Bailey says that lotions are your best bet because spray bottles don't always apply enough of the product onto the skin. "The protecting ingredients are dispersed in droplets that are spotted on the skin and don't entirely cover every cell," she says.
We always encourage you to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors, especially in the summertime. But we're also all about total health and wellness, which certainly includes keeping your skin safe from the sun. So, check out our list of the best sunscreens, buy yourself a bottle or two, and make sure you lather it on before enjoying your favorite outdoor activities this summer and all year long.
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Glycolix Elite SPF 30 Sunscreen
Zinc oxide is the main active ingredient in this super protective sunscreen made specifically for your face. The formula includes Vitamins A, C and E for enhanced nourishment and green tea extract which is said to reduce inflammation and redness. It works well as an everyday sunscreen that can be worn underneath makeup and is personally recommended by Dr. Bailey.
Credit: Raw Elements USA
Raw Elements Eco Formula SPF 30+ Sunscreen
This GMO-free sunscreen promises water-resistant, broad spectrum protection for up to 80 minutes. Zinc oxide is the main component and the rest of the lotion is made with mostly USDA certified organic ingredients including organic sunflower oil, organic green tea, organic black tea, organic coffee, organic hemp seed oil, and organic cocoa butter. Raw Elements calls it the "the Conscious Consumer's answer to serious sun protection" and says that it's gentle enough for adults and children alike.
Credit: Suntegrity Skin Care
Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
This mineral-based, zinc oxide body sunscreen boasts a label free of ingredients like parabens, sulfates and synthetic dyes, which are often considered harsh and sometimes harmful to the skin. Described as easy to apply, non-greasy and therapeutic it offers broad spectrum protection and incorporates soothing ingredients like green tea extract and pomegranate seed oil.
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