How To Choose Your Perfect Sunscreen

Routine 101

How To Choose Your Perfect Sunscreen

By Hanna Yowell

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It’s easy to get caught up in the pedantics of sunscreen usage. (Chemical or physical?! What does “reef safe” even mean?) We believe the best sunscreen for you is the one you’ll want to apply every single morning. However, the checklist of what makes something the ideal for sunscreen will vary for everyone, so let’s break down some of the most common issues people have when picking the right SPF.

Your Sun Protection Checklist

  1. Make sure the sunscreen you choose is at least SPF 30+ and “Broad-Spectrum.”
  2. Apply sunscreen every single morning, re-applying every 2 hours — especially when you’re outside.
  3. Besides sunscreen, the American Cancer Society also recommends a holistic approach to staying sun-safe including, wearing protective clothing (such as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses), seeking shade (especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), and avoiding tanning beds, which can cause long-term skin damage and contribute to skin cancer.
  4. In terms of "reef-safe" sunscreen options, you'll want to avoid certain ingredients when you are in close proximity to coral reefs in a body of water. Dr. Michelle Wong of Lab Muffin Beauty Science has noted that researchers are "of the opinion that the harm from sunscreen for the vast majority of coral reefs is actually miniscule" and "the much bigger threats to coral are climate change and agricultural management." However, if you'll be swimming near coral, Dr. Wong recommends applying sunscreen at least 20 minutes before entering the water and using a sunscreen without ingredients found to harm reefs in some studies, including oxybenzone, octinoxate, enzacamene (4-MBC), and zinc oxide. Keep in mind, the terms "reef-safe" or "reef-friendly" are unregulated and not always reliable, so you'll want to rely on your own judgment and label reading.

“I have trouble finding sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast.”

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Medical College, noted that ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can leave a white cast behind on some skin tones when formulated incorrectly. Henry instead “recommends looking for formulas that include micronized zinc and titanium dioxide, or the addition of masking pigments."

“I’m pregnant and being even more vigilant about what’s going on my skin.”

"Technically all the SPF Heyday offers is pregnancy safe,” says Heyday Skincare Education Director Shea Amiruddin. However, we do acknowledge that many may prefer a physical sunscreen option. Specifically, Shea recommends filtering your search to include just physical, non-nano, non-aerosol sunscreens. The options we carry that meet these qualifications include:

“I have acne-prone or sensitive skin and feel like sunscreens always make me break out or irritate my skin.”

If you think your current sunscreen is causing congestion or breakouts, your best bet is opting for a physical sunscreen or one that’s specifically formulated for acne-prone skin, like an “oil-free” option. Same goes for sensitive skin types — stick to a physical blocker.

  • Supergoop! Mattescreen SPF 40 is formulated with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide — an ultra-lightweight physical formula perfect for oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin types.
  • Dermalogica Oil Free Matte SPF 30 not only protects against the sun, but actually treats acne and soothes inflammation, while absorbing excess oil to prevent future breakouts.

“I’m inside a lot, so I don’t really get why I should wear sunscreen every day.”

Even if you plan on spending your time indoors, our experts still recommend daily sunscreen to protect you from light filtering in through windows and the potential damage of blue light from screens. There’s still more research needed to fully understand the effects of blue light on our skin, but recent studies indicate exposure to blue light may cause skin damage—we recommend wearing sunscreen in front of screens, just in case.

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Whether you’re spending all your summertime outside in the sun or prefer staying inside with the windows open, sunscreen is essential anytime and anywhere.

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