Women who value great skin make applying sun protection a daily to-do, but in summer months we’re exposed to more sunshine than normal, meaning protecting skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays is a must.
We’ve got your guide to beating the heat, including an easy to read refresher course in sun protection and our roundup of the top sun protection products for the season.
UVA vs. UVB
There are two types of ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. UVA rays are the most insidious of the pair, they can get you almost anywhere because they travel through windows and even light clothing. UVA is less likely than UVB to cause sunburns, meaning that even though you may not know your skin is being damaged, it is. In fact, UVA rays damage the deeper layers of skin resulting in loss of collagen and elastin.
UVB rays stimulate the cell that produces melanin, the brown pigment that causes suntans and is actually your body’s attempt to defend against UV radiation. UVB rays are also the primary cause of sunburns as well as a myriad of skin cancers. Plus, UVB rays contribute to wrinkling and aging of the skin.
In order to truly protect your skin, chose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage, meaning skin is protected against UVA and UVB rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends generously applying a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily, and re-applying every two hours, even on cloudy days.
Everyone’s buzzin’ about physical sunblocks these days but what the heck are they? A physical sunblock contains ingredients that rest on the skin's surface and reflect away ultraviolet rays. Physical sunblocks cannot be absorbed into the skin and proponents say that this makes physical sunblocks safer than chemical sunscreens. Sunscreen contains chemicals that absorb UV rays before they damage the skin, while sunblocks contain particles that physically block UV rays from reaching the skin. And while sunscreen needs to be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure, sunblocks are effective the moment they are applied.
Many experts agree that physical sunblocks are most effective at blocking harmful UV rays, so for optimal protection choose a product that contains chemical sunscreens as well as physical sunblocks such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
We’ve tried and tested dozens of sunscreens/sunblocks and rounded up the top five in different price points for effectiveness, smell and appearance.
- Not for the faint of budget, Kinerase’s Cream with SPF 30 is recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation and includes 6% Titanium Dioxide and 7% Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate ($135 for 2.8 oz. at kinerase.com). It goes on smoothly with an innocuous scent and promises to improve skin tone while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Needless to say, our skin didn’t burn after applying this pricey cream.
- Perricone MD’s Solar protection Body with DMAE SPF 45 is a broad-spectrum, chemical-free, water-resistant sunscreen that features DMAE to firm and tone the body. We’re fans of the entire Perricone collection and, in particular, this product’s promise to protect and firm from head to toe; $48 for 4.2 oz. at sephora.com.
- Soléo Organics is an all-natural, organically sourced, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 plus broad spectrum protection. The Soléo collection is biodegradable and never tested on animals; $24.99 for 2.6 oz. at soleousa.com
- Burt's Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 sells for just $15 for 3.5 oz. and is available at most local drug stores as well as online at burtsbees.com. Boasting a high level of titanium dioxide (8.58%) and no chemical sunscreens, this sunscreen continues in the Burt’s Bees tradition of offering up natural and effective products priced right.
- Walgreen’s ultra-affordable Sunblock with Zinc Oxide for Face, Nose & Ears offers up an SPF of 45 thanks in part to 6.86% Zinc Oxide. Plus, the greaseless formula goes on clear and odor free. The price is oh-so-right, just $4.99 for 2 oz. at Walgreens.