Amid a summer with historic heat and long-awaited vacations, skincare experts are back to say: Don’t forget to apply sunscreen.
But finding the right sunscreen for you is not always easy.
“As a Black woman, I know most brands aren’t catered toward dark skinned people, sadly,” licensed esthetician Angela Bowe told USA TODAY. “But I’ve learned how to find what works best for me.”
While it takes time to navigate the right products for you, estheticians who spoke with USA TODAY said it’s possible to find lotions, serums or sprays that can protect skin from harmful UV rays and also be a comfortable part of daily routines.
Plus, a sheen of sunscreen may even help with that “summer glow,” Bowe said.
With countless protection options — and with dozens of sunscreen brands recalled in June — experts say these sunscreens are among your best options this summer:
What sunscreen is best for darker skin?
The first step is to test out an SPF before purchasing it, especially if it contains high concentrations of mineral filters like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Those ingredients typically cause a chalky look or white cast. Bowe recommends using samples of sunscreen to test out the white cast.
Both estheticians recommend tinted versions of sunscreen although it may be difficult to find an exact match. Bowe said she leans toward clear, gel-like texture sunscreens or sheer face mists.
I have acne-prone skin, what should I use?
It’s best to avoid heavy, oily sunscreens and look for formulas that are lighter in texture such as serums, gels or light lotions. Licensed esthetician Jordana Mattioli recommends using SPF powders for reapplication although it shouldn’t be your sole source. SPF’s with added ingredients like Niacinamide for its anti-inflammatory effect on acne can be beneficial.
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How many times should I reapply my sunscreen?
Sunscreen reapplication depends on how often you’re exposed to the sun and how concerned you are with premature aging and skin cancer. If you’re working indoors for most of the daylight hours, then one application in the morning is enough. If you’re going to be out in direct sunlight, reapplying every 2 hours will give you maximum protection.
In terms of how much to apply and where, Bowe said she uses the three fingers rule. She applies three fingers’ worth of sunscreen to her face and another three fingers’ worth to her neck and hands. She said she reapplies sunscreen twice a day to her entire body, meaning her neck, hands, legs, back and chest. For her body, she prefers to use a sunscreen mist or spray.
“If you’re outside, apply twice a day. If you’re indoors, I would say once a day is okay. If you don’t want to reapply, you can always just wear a protective hat to cover your face too,” Bowe said.
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What SPF should I get?
Mattioli would recommend getting SPF 30 or higher since most people don’t apply enough to get “true SPF 30 protection.” Be on the lookout for “broad spectrum” SPF which indicates the level of sunburn protection provided and the SPF Value is measured against sunburn caused by UVB radiation.
If a label doesn’t say “broad spectrum SPF” it may not protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.
What is the biggest difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen?
Mineral sunscreen ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, while chemical sunscreen ingredients include everything else such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene and more.
Another difference is mineral-only SPF will usually be slightly more opaque than chemical blocks, which is why a lot of brands make tinted options, Mattioli said.
Bowe said most brands include a combination of mineral and chemical sunscreen ingredients. Mattioli said some people believe mineral sunscreens are “all-natural” which is false. Mineral sunscreens still go through multiple processing steps just like chemical sunscreen.
Do I need to wear sunscreen when indoors or sitting by a window?
Standard window glass, such at the type in cars and planes, does allow some UV-A and UV-B light to pass through. Bowe and Mattioli said it’s best to add sunscreen into your daily routine just in case. When in doubt, apply sunscreen.
Is sunscreen harmful?
A study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA found that several active ingredients in different sunscreens enter the bloodstream at levels that far exceed the FDA’s recommended threshold without a government safety inspection. But doctors don’t recommend avoiding sunscreen use altogether instead just these ingredients – avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.
Mattioli said skin is not a sponge and actually acts as a barrier eliminating any risk. Bowe said sunscreen safety is all about finding the right brands, doing your research beforehand and consulting an expert or doctor beforehand.
“There’s a saying within toxicology that ‘the dose makes the poison,’ meaning that a substance can produce the harmful effect associated with its toxic properties only if it reaches a susceptible biological system within the body in a high enough concentration,” Mattioli said.
There are also environmental concerns about sunscreen, specifically the chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in most products. In Hawaii, there is a ban on the sale of sunscreens containing coral-harming chemicals.
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