(Image source: http://pixel.nymag.com/imgs/daily/vulture/2011/08/24/24_trueblood-sunblock.o.jpg/a_560x869.jpg)
Once upon a time, The Punk Rock Esthetician was a country girl, Southern Belle professional cheerleader and model. Part of this persona was the perfect year-round tan. We seriously had a “you must be tan enough” clause in our cheerleading contract. I’m pretty pale, and always have been. And spray tans just didn’t seem to stick to my skin as long as my teammates. So I never, EVER wore sunscreen, even though I have tattoos and a scar on my forehead that need sun protection, even though I knew relatives with skin cancer, even though I grimaced at the appearance of every new freckle and mole. My logic was that if I couldn’t get “tan enough” without sun protection, how in the world was I going to get “tan enough” if I was wearing sunscreen?
I can’t say that I now know better, because I always knew better. I just didn’t do anything about it. Now I do something about it, and my esthetics education played a large part in that. I was able to see sun damage in all its forms through Woods Lamps, prematurely aged skin, etc. It definitely was a bit of a wake-up call for me, so once I started actually taking care of my skin (which wasn’t even until I graduated esthetics school, but I digress), I started putting on sunscreen when I thought about it. And only because I happened to have some samples. I’m still not perfect (shocking, I know), and I still forget to put on my sunscreen daily. I always put it on when I’m doing my whole morning routine, but I don’t always do my whole morning routine. I’m a work in progress! However, I have been consistent enough that I feel I can make a few recommendations, at least on what to look for. A few weeks ago, I actually purchased sunscreen on purpose-I didn’t wait until I got another sample from Sephora or something. So I’m calling that a win!
In this post, I’ll go over some things to consider, ingredients to look for, and my three favorite sunscreens (so far). I’ll be using The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here by Paula Begoun as my main source. I do not agree with Paula on lots of things. I actually find her to be a bit too abrasive and close-minded for my tastes. But, she knows her stuff when it comes to sun protection and damage, so I felt it necessary to reference her in this post. Let’s start with why you should be using sunscreen every damn day:
- Sun damage begins the moment your skin is exposed to the sun. Yes, even through your windows. Any day the sun exists, it’s damaging your skin. This includes rainy days, overcast days, winter days-the day the sun disappears is the day you don’t need sunscreen. But I’m pretty sure you’ll be dead then so…
- Several research cases have “made it clear that repeated, unprotected sun exposure causes DNA damage that triggers skin cells to mutate.” Throughout the years, all of that adds up and “these mutations often turn into skin cancers.” (Paraphrased from The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here.) So, with every tan, with every burn, you’re mutating your DNA. Which sounds all cool and X-Men esque, but it’s not.
- Even if you somehow avoid skin cancer, years of unprotected sun exposure or deliberate tanning accelerates the aging process. Wrinkles, sagging, brown spots, texture changes, large or misshapen pores, reduced skin healing…all of these come from skipping the sunscreen. So CLEARLY the fountain of youth is a bottle of well-formulated sunscreen, as any vampire esthetician will tell you.
- Any amount of color indicates damage. There is no such thing as a “healthy tan”, a “base tan”, etc. Any color means that your melanin is being affected and damaged.
The reasons people give for not wearing sunscreen on a daily basis make sense, but not when stacked against these arguments for daily use. “I wear sunscreen if I’m going to be outside for a while, isn’t that enough?” Nope, see the first point. I’ll even cite scientific sources at the bottom of this post. “I don’t burn, I just tan.” See points 2 and 4. “A healthy glow is so youthful!” #3 and #4. “New studies show that sunscreen causes cancer too.” Watch your ingredients…and please cite your sources. Because that is simply untrue. My favorite excuse, because I myself used it for soooooo many years, is, “I hate the smell, it’s sticky, and it leaves a white cast under my makeup.” I can help you with that one! Here are my three favorite sunscreens (so far):
(Image source: http://www.sephora.com/productimages/sku/s1604164-main-zoom.jpg)
This is the most “cosmetic” of the sunscreens I’ve tried. I actually got a small sample of it from Sephora. I really like this one because it’s almost like the formulation is specifically designed to be worn under makeup. Supergoop has the least amount of “sunscreen smell”, leaves no white cast, has a light texture, and is overall a very good sunscreen. However, it is $19 for a 2.4 oz. bottle, so it’s a little pricey if you’re not wanting to spend a lot on another skincare step.
(Image source: http://scene7.targetimg1.com/is/image/Target/10801275?wid=480&hei=480)
Here’s the thing with Neutrogena for me. Their products are a staple, everyone and their dog has tried something of theirs at some point, and they seem to be a “good but cheap” standby. But if you look at their ingredients, and if you observe the skin after prolonged use, Neutrogena products are TRASH. Their sunscreen is an exception, for the most part. It has more of a sunscreen smell than the Supergoop, but it’s much more accessible and affordable (about $9.99 at Target). It’s lightweight, sheer, and doesn’t leave my hands feeling sticky; I don’t feel like I have to rinse my hands after applying this to my face. My problem with this one is that Neutrogena has been under fire as recently as 2015 by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) for “toxicity and false advertisement” (reference). But some sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, and if Neutrogena is the best you can do, please do.
(Image source: http://ii.aveeno.com/fcgi-bin/iipsrv.fcgi?FIF=/images/aveeno/source/1001274.tif&wid=1000&cvt=jpeg)
It’s so funny that this one if my favorite, because it’s the most “traditional” sunscreen of the three: it smells like sunscreen, it’s as thick as sunscreen, and you really have to work it in if you don’t want a white cast. I also have to rinse my hands afterward, or else I feel sticky. But it’s my favorite drugstore sunscreen because it doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy. Aveeno isn’t the perfect angel everyone makes it out to be, but it is a damn good drugstore skincare line. This sunscreen makes me feel good about using it because it is fragrance free (more on that below) and rated relatively well by the EWG. I found it for about $10 at HEB. I’ve used it under makeup and it doesn’t change the look at all. I recommend this one over the Neutrogena sunscreen but below Supergoop.
Here are some things to consider concerning sunscreen. A higher SPF rating does not necessarily mean better protection, as I discussed in my SkinCare Myths post. Unless you’re actively sweating and swimming, the sunscreen you apply in the morning should be good enough to protect you for the day-if you’re just going about your day, you can ignore the reapplication guidelines listed on the bottle. Look for something that is fragrance free but AVOID anything that says unscented: fragrance free means no fragrance has been added to cover up the smell of the other ingredients, whereas unscented means something has been added to neutralize the smell of the other ingredients. Also look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. If your skin is normal or normal-oily, you can use sunscreen alone, meaning you don’t need to apply your moisturizer before applying your sunscreen. If you have drier skin, like me, I still use both. You can find a moisturizer with SPF if that works for you, I just haven’t found one that I like. Your neck and hands need daily sunscreen as much as your face does; these are often the first places to show sun damage and ageing, due to lack of protection.
Here are some other recommended products from Paula’s book. I haven’t personally tried any of these, but I’ve underlined the ones I plan on testing, due to their reputation, ingredient deck, etc:
- Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen Protection, Fragrance Free SPF 30 ($11.49)
- Clinique Sun Broad Spectrum SPF 30 or SPF 50 Body Cream ($25)
- KINeSYS SPF 30 Alcohol-Free Sunscreen with Mango ($18.99)
- MD SolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen ($30)
- Olay Regenerist Regenerating Lotion with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($25)
- Replenix Sheer Physical Sunscreen Cream SPF 50 ($29)
- Yes to Cucumbers Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 Stick ($8.99)
So if you want to look like this:
(Image source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_NpXbBMtgFEs/TTQbnhh0y6I/AAAAAAAAAEo/dmBmD26Lqgc/s1600/Selene+From+Underworld.jpg)
And not like this:
(Image source: https://silvrback.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/1bcdff9a-8df4-43eb-9eb9-7ab2ebe360bd/Tanned%20Back_medium.jpg)
…then use your sunscreen every damn day!
(Scientific research cited:
D’Orazio J, Jarrett S., Amaro-Ortiz A, Scott T. UV Radiation and the Skin. Int J Mol Sci. 2013;14(6):122222-12248.
Fisher G, Datta S, Talwar H, Wang Z, Varani J, Kang S, Voorhees J. Molecular basis of sun-induced premature skin ageing and retinoid antagonism. Nature. 1996;379(6563):335-9.)