Your mom has told you. Your dermatologist has told you. Every celebrity under the sun has told you: Sunscreen is the most important element of your skincare routine. And sure, you’re good about putting it on before you go to the beach, and yeah, you bought some SPF 15 moisturizer, but admit it: You could definitely be doing better. It just seems like a lot of work if you’re just commuting to the office and back.
Guess what? You don’t get Gwyneth Paltrow-like skin by being lazy about your safe sun. So we asked celebrity dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner to answer our most pressing questions about everyday sunscreen application. You’ll never walk out of the house unprepared again.
If you have a desk job and don’t spend much time outside, will a moisturizer or foundation with SPF be enough for the day?
If you put on the right amount of any SPF-containing product, it will effectively protect you. The problem with foundation is that the amount you need for sun protection will leave your face caked with makeup — plus you are not putting it all over your body. A nickel-sized dollop of moisturizer with sunscreen however will do the trick for your face; don’t forgot the hairline, ears, and neck.
But if you’re right by a window, UVA light — the rays associated with premature aging and skin cancer — penetrate right through glass, even on cloudy days! In that case, extra protection with straight sunscreen is not a bad idea over the summer. Don’t forgot exposed areas like arms, hands, legs and feet!
So when in my morning routine am I supposed to apply sunscreen?
First apply your serum or moisturizer with sunscreen, then makeup on top. Some products I like are Neutrogena Hydroboost SPF 15, Murad Mattifying Primer with SPF, or LaRoche-Posay primer with sunscreen.
What if I’ve got makeup on but want to go eat lunch outside?
If your face needs an SPF touch-up, reapply makeup with sunscreen. Or try a sunscreen powder or setting mist with SPF.
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I always break out when I wear sunscreen, especially with the heat and pollution in the city. How can I avoid that?
Look for oil-free formulations labeled as non-comedogenic, like Elta MD UV Clear or Neutrogena Clear Face. Remove them thoroughly with a cleansing towelette or makeup remover plus an effective cleanser for a double cleanse to ensure full removal.
Am I just hallucinating that feeling that my skin is extra dirty in the summer?
Heat and humidity makes oily skin feel extra greasy. Consider an oil-absorbing primer that soaks up oil like a sponge and leaves skin matte. Blotting papers, clay masks and salicylic acid cleansers can also be helpful in removing excess oil and dead cells on the skin surface.
Is there anything that every woman should have in her medicine cabinet in the summer?
Have sunscreen everywhere you go! In your desk, your car, your gym bag, a travel size for your purse. You never want to be stuck wishing you had sunscreen but don’t!
Does more expensive sunscreen mean it’s better?
Not necessarily. Looking to Consumer Reports as an example, some inexpensive sunscreens performed as well as pricey ones.
What skincare mistakes do you see women making in the summer?
That you don’t need moisturizer. Skin oiliness is a separate issue from hydration, and some people still need moisturizers. Choose a lighter formulation, like Aveeno Light Scent lotion, that won’t weigh you down.
Base tans aren’t protective. And finally, yes, the sun gives you vitamin D — but the healthy way to get vitamin D is from your diet or through supplements recommended by your doctor. Even incidental sunlight is enough to help your body make adequate vitamin D.
Convinced yet? Go buy some sunscreen!
— Alex Apatoff