Once the forecast switches to sunny skies, our attention turns to these skin savers without fail. But the reality is that the damaging effects of the sun’s rays are felt all year round. As for picking the best sunscreen, the advice we always hear from dermatologists is—to borrow an iconic sports slogan—just do it! Using sunscreen daily protects us from UV damage and is essential for reducing our risk of skin cancer and avoiding premature signs of aging (like wrinkles, dark spots and sagging).
The good news is that the sun care category has seen a lot of innovation over the past few years. Now, there’s an sunscreen for every multi-tasking need out there: added hydration, mattifying effects, skin-tone-specific formulas and tinted. Yet it’s still not that straightforward. It’s not enough to have the best sunscreen for face or the best sunscreen for body—you also need to apply it correctly to get the full benefits.
If you’re unsure how to put together the ultimate sun care routine or you’re looking to brush up on the application basics, consider this your expert-backed guide.
The Perfect Sun Care Routine
Taking the time to care for ourselves is a necessity, especially when it comes to proper and effective sun care. If you’re wondering about the best way to put on sunscreen, you’re not alone. Over 60,000,000 searches on Google prove that a ton of people are unclear about proper application. Here are some key terms and tips to level up your sun safety.
- What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor”; it’s important to note, however, that SPF is specifically related to UVB (burning rays) and doesn’t tell you anything about protection from UVA (aging rays). When you’re purchasing sunscreen, make sure the words “broad spectrum” are on the label; this indicates that it offers UVA protection.
- What level of SPF should you use?
The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends using a sunscreen product that has an SPF of 30 or higher and that also provides broad-spectrum protection (guarding against UVA and UVB).
- How to apply sunscreen to your face
Applying sunscreen incorrectly really defeats the purpose. If you don’t put enough on, it won’t give you full SPF protection. There are two ways to make sure you put enough sunscreen on your face, neck and ears. You can measure out ¼ teaspoon and apply it, or you can try the user-friendly two-fingers method. For the latter, simply squeeze one line of sunscreen on your pointer finger and another on your middle finger and then rub it over your face, neck and ears thoroughly.
Equally important is putting your sunscreen on in the right order of your skincare routine. It’s easy to remember because it should always be your last step of skincare, just before you apply makeup. Both physical and chemical sunscreens are formulated with protective ingredients and designed to be applied over moisturizer. Even if you have the best sunscreen moisturizer, adding a broad-spectrum SPF 30 on top is important to ensure protection from UVA rays.
- How to apply sunscreen to your body
You’ll need a lot more sunscreen than you probably think. The average adult needs a shot glass of sunscreen applied to their body for full protection. The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends that sunscreen be liberally (and evenly) applied; for example, one palmful for each arm and one for each leg. When you’re using a organic sunscreen, it also suggests that you apply it before sun exposure (15 to 30 minutes) to allow the filters to bond to your skin. If you’re planning on exposing a lot of skin because you’ll be wearing a swimsuit, the best way to make sure you get full coverage is to apply it before you get dressed.
- How often to reapply sunscreen
Whether you’re planning on going for a long walk or hanging out by the pool in direct sunlight, the reapplication rule remains the same: Apply sunscreen to exposed skin every two hours. If you’re wondering how to reapply sunscreen with makeup, there are a few things you can do. Powder sunscreens and setting sprays with SPF come in handy, both of which can be applied casually over makeup. However, if you are working out or just sweating off your sunscreen, there are easy ways to add more on the go: Try a tinted sunscreen (like Vichy Capital Soleil Ultra-Light UV Lotion SPF 60, which is a mineral sunscreen) or one made specifically to layer well over makeup, like a stick sunscreen. Vichy Idéal Soleil Stick for Sensitive Zones SPF 60 fits the bill because it’s formulated for sensitive facial areas such as eye and lip contours and offers a higher protection.
Best Sun Care Products
To best protect your skin from sun exposure, use either a chemical or mineral broad-spectrum formulation. Vichy’s sun and skin care collection has some of the best sunscreens on the market.
- Best sunscreen ingredients
Not all sun-protecting ingredients have the same benefits, so knowing some of the top-tier filters is essential. One of the gold standards is a organic filter that Vichy uses in most of its sun care range: Mexoryl XL. It works to block UVA rays—the long-wave rays that promote skin aging. Another popular ingredient is titanium dioxide, which falls into the mineral filter category. It serves as a broad-spectrum UV filter and helps protect a person’s skin by scattering UV the sun’s ultraviolet light that can cause sunburn.
To help boost the efficacy of these filters, Vichy has recently introduced a new technology called Netlock. This polymer is capable of gelling and stabilizing sun filters. Essentially, Netlock encases these sun filters and allows them to form a flexible film on the skin that’s not sticky or greasy. In short, it provides a higher UV protection than a conventional formula for the same filter. It also performs better with water, sweat and even sand.
- Best sunscreen for face
If you’re using a lotion with an SPF, it’s likely not enough protection. Even the best sunscreen moisturizers may not adequately protect your skin from damaging UV rays because we tend to spread our moisturizer more thinly than we would sunscreen. Also, the SPF tends to be lower than 30 in many moisturizers.
When shopping for sunscreen for your face, you’ll want to be conscious of formulas and ingredients that address specific concerns like fine lines or acne. Also, consider consistency. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, stick with an sunscreen with sebum absorbing ingredients like Vichy Capital Soleil Anti-Shine Dry Touch UV Lotion SPF 60. It uses a mineral called perlite to give skin a mattifying effect. If you have dryer skin, however, you might want a thicker sunscreen.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Does sunscreen prevent sweating?
There’s not a lot of research done in this area, but with limited studies, there is little evidence proving that sunscreen can impede sweat production or physical performance. If you plan on playing golf or going for a run, choose a water-resistant formula because these filters are designed to cling to slick skin more effectively for the period indicated on the packaging.
- How long does sunscreen last?
A sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) is only fully effective for two hours after you put it on—or after 40 to 80 minutes of swimming or sweating and always reapplying immediately after towel drying. In terms of expiration, skincare products, in general, aren’t made to last forever—and this is especially true of your sun protection because formulations are pretty complex. In Canada, all sunscreens have expiry dates. So, it’s best to check to make sure your product isn’t expired, because an expired sunscreen may be less effective.
- Can you still tan with sunscreen on?
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a safe tan. The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, is a sign of damage. It may still be possible for your skin to tan even when you’re wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, but no amount of deliberate tanning is considered safe.