All You Need to Know About Finding the Best Sunscreen

best spray sunscreen

Happy Tuesday, loves! So glad to have you here today! Today is a post I think we can all glean something from as it’s about sunscreen. I don’t know about you guys, but sunscreen seems like a complicated thing to me. What SPF is best? What ingredients should sunscreen include? Does it need zinc oxide? 

When I took a poll on instagram, I found out that you guys had some of those exact same questions about sunscreen that I did! So, today it is my honor to bring my friend and dermatologist, Dr. Molly Austin, back to the blog. If you recall, she guest posted for us a couple months about answering all of our questions about Botox. Today, she’s here to give us the 411 about sunscreen, and what better time to beef up our knowledge than the day before we’re all in the sun?

Oh, and if you haven’t followed Dr. Austin on instagram yet, I highly recommend it. She posts often sharing everything topics from diet & acne relationships, retinoid v. retinol, skin conditions, and more! She’s a wealth of knowledge!

1.What should I look for in a sunscreen?

The American Academy of Dermatology officially recommends a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays), and water resistant. You know you are getting full spectrum blockage if it contains “zinc oxide”, so it is very easy to just look for this ingredient. If you don’t see zinc oxide, just make sure it says “broad
spectrum” on the front.

2. What SPF should I wear?

I recommend everyone wear 30 or above. The key to SPF, however, is applying the correct amount. When sunscreens are tested, they get their SPF status by applying a standard amount of the product. This comes out to be about 1/4 teaspoon for the face and a shot glass of sunscreen for the entire body. If you are not applying adequately, you are essentially applying a lower SPF.

3. When is the best time to put on sunscreen and how often do I need to reapply?

You should always put a sunscreen on after you wash your face in the morning. I tell patients it should become a habit like brushing your teeth. It’s very convenient if your moisturizer also contains a good SPF. Reapplication is absolutely critical! Sunscreens loose their efficacy after 2 hours max. You should reapply every 1-2 hours if you are outside. If you happen to be outside between the hours of 10-2 p.m. in the summer it should really be every ONE hour.

4. Do I put sunblock on before or after moisturizer?

There is not a clear consensus on this, but I generally recommend that if you aren’t using a combination sunscreen/moisturizer product, the moisturizer be applied before sunscreen so as to not dilute it. Let the moisturizer soak into the skin for a minute or two before applying sunscreen. Makeup can follow after the sunscreen (and a bonus if your make-up has additional SPF!)

5. Do I need to wear sunscreen when I will be in the car/under shade or only when I am
directly in the sun?

UVA, the spectrum that is most responsible for sun damage, starts damaging your skin in LESS THAN A MINUTE! UVA penetrates through clear glass, so you are still getting sun exposure while in your car or sitting by a window. A couple other fun facts: an estimated 50% of UVA exposure still happens while in the shade and a completely overcast sky still allows over 30% of UV radiation to penetrate into the atmosphere. Moral of the story, you can never be 100% protected if you are outside at all.

6. What is the best type of sunscreen if I have melasma?

Melasma patients really do need to block as much light as possible as they have an extremely light sensitive condition. I recommend a TINTED purely physical blocking agent for these patients (only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide). Melasma can be exacerbated by heat and the chemical blockers in sunscreens turn light into heat- which can make matters worse. Tinted sunscreens contain an ingredient called “iron oxide” that blocks visible light, which has
been proven to worsen melasma.

7. Is lotion better than spray?

I do not think one is better than the other. I love sprays for their practicality with kids or while at the beach or pool where you will have to constantly reapply. With sprays, however, you do have to be sure you have applied enough. I usually recommend 2-3 passes on each body area when using a spray before rubbing in. Avoid use of sprays on the head and neck as inhaling aerosols is not recommended.

8. Should I put sunscreen on my scalp or hair?

I highly recommend putting sunscreen on your part and hair line where your scalp is exposed. Skin cancer can absolutely occur on your scalp, therefore it needs to be protected as well. Lotions and creams can be hard to apply on the scalp, so I love this powder mineral sunscreen for that tricky area.

9. Does clothing with SPF really work? If so, what brands do you recommend?

The UV protectiveness of fabrics is measured as “UV Protection Factor” or UPF, which is the fabric equivalent of SPF. It is tested in a standardized manner just like SPF. I definitely recommend wearing sun protective clothing with UPF when you know you are going to be outside for an extended period of time. Light, loose weave fabrics like cotton only have an SPF of 5-8. Darker colored, thicker, more tightly woven fabrics offer more protection. My favorite brand for hats and clothing with UPF is Coolibar but I also like Cabana Life a lot. You can also wash normal clothes with something like this to boost the UPF in your regular clothing.

10. What is the BEST sunscreen?

This is the easiest and most straightforward question to answer: THE ONE YOU WILL WEAR! Several studies have proven that patients will only wear sunscreen when they “like the way it feels”. I care less about the ingredients and brand and more than you use it consistently throughout the day. Find a sunscreen or sunscreens with the consistency, smell, color ect. that works for you and your lifestyle. See below for some specific recommendations!

asos white one piece suit

For Dry Skin:
Elta MD UV Daily (comes in both tinted & non tinted)
Why? full of hyaluronic acid and moisturizing ingredients, great for that morning application if you tend to be dry.

For Oily skin:
Elta MD UV Clear (comes in both tinted & non tinted) or MD Solar Sciences Mineral Creme (tinted)
Why? Both are not combined with a moisturizer and the MD solar sciences has a very matte finish, not oily at all.

For Melasma prone skin:
Avene Complexion Correcting Sheild or Elta MD UV Physical
Why? Both are tinted (Avene comes in different shades to match your skin type) and both are purely physical agents, no chemical blockers.

For men or people that cannot stand the feel of anything on their face:
Supergoop Unseen or Elta MD UV Clear
Why? The Supergoop legitimately feels like nothing is on your skin (all chemical blockers) and the UV Clear really lives up to its name- goes on very clear but still contains zinc oxide!

Lotion for Adult Body:
Elta MD UV Sport, 7 oz bottle
Why? Contains zinc oxide, rubs in nicely, and comes in a good size pump bottle!

Spray for Adult Body:
Beauty Countersun Mineral Mist or Elta MD UV Aero
Why? Both have zinc oxide, the UV Aero is my all time favorite because it sprays more in a straight line (less mess) and I love the clean citrus smell of the beauty counter spray.

For Baby Skin < 1 year:
Elta MD UV Pure
Why? Purely zinc oxide and titanium oxide, waterproof, ideal for sensitive skin, and rubs in nicely compared to most purely physical creams.

Stick for the face:
Beauty Counter Face Stick
Why? Purely zinc oxide, water resistant, goes on like butter, smells nice, and does not leave a white residue. The best face stick by far!

Reapplication Powder:
Colorscience Sunforgettable Mineral Powder
Why? So easy to reapply, my favorite to keep in the car (powder so won’t melt/get too hot). Great for the neck and scalp too, which are easily forgotten!

Drug store/budget friendly:
Cerave AM Moisturizing Sunscreen
Why? $15 from CVS, contains zinc oxide, and is also a great moisturizer. Especially love this one if you can’t justify buying a $30+ sunscreen for your adolescents or teenagers!

This post was created in collaboration with Dr. Molly Austin. Thank you for supporting those brands and persons that support Fleurdille. To contact Dr. Austin, click here.