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Sun Protection 101: How To Choose The Right Sunscreen

Kim JonesPhoto via Kim Jones

One of the most effective, if not the best way to keep your skin looking its best is using daily sun protection. When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, how do you know which one is best for you and your skin? It seems like sunscreen bottles are covered in skincare jargon that is as hard to decipher.

I break down the most important things you need to know when choosing your next sunscreen. Learn what SPF number you should choose, how much sunscreen you really need and what the difference is between physical and chemical sunscreens.

UVA Rays vs. UVB Rays

Let’s start with UV, which are ultraviolet rays from the sun which cause premature aging by breaking down collagen in the skin. There are two types of UV rays: UVA, and UVB.

UVA is always there, no matter what the weather is. So, yes that means even on overcast and chilly days it can still affect you and your skin all year round. It is even capable of penetrating windows and is more damaging compared to UVB. UVA rays penetrate the layers of the skin, causing premature aging.

UVB rays cause tanning and burning on the upper layers of the skin and are more seasonal.

Both rays are linked to skin cancer and long-term harm to your health.

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreens

Physical sunscreens use natural agents and form a protective layer on the skin to reflect those UV rays while chemical sunscreens have chemicals as their active ingredients to fight the harmful rays.

Chemical Sunscreens absorb UV light and need 20 minutes to start being effective after applying it. It also has better photostability, which is just a fancy way of saying that will be more effective for longer; however, it may not be ideal for people with more sensitive skin as it is a potential allergen.

Physical Sunscreens which are also referred to as mineral sunscreens, scatter UV light and reflect them back off your skin. They start working right away, as soon as you apply it to your skin. They are better for people with sensitive skin however, they rub off and sweat off much easier than chemical sunscreens. Something else to keep in mind, depending on what and when you’re using sunscreen is that they can have somewhat of a white film and can cause white flashback in photography.

When it comes down to which one you should get, it’s really just about finding which one works best for you. The most important thing is choosing a sunscreen that has broad spectrum protection and using it diligently! Here are some great broad spectrum sunscreens:

Sun BumSun Bum SPF 30 Original Sunscreen Lotion, $18.99 CAD, Shoppers Drug Mart

VichyVichy Ideal Soleil Sport Ultra Light Refreshing Lotion SPF 60, $30 CAD, London Drugs

NeutrogenaNeutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60, $15.99 CAD, London Drugs

What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Look for an SPF between 30 and 60, that range is the recommended magic number from dermatologists where UVB rays are being blocked most effectively.

SPF protects you against UVB rays only so when you’re choosing a sunscreen look for broad spectrum labeling, this means that the sunscreen will protect you against both, UVA and UVB.

How Much Sunscreen Should You Use?

As it turns out, we often don’t use enough sunscreen. To cover an adult body, you should be using a shot glass (30 mL) amount of sunscreen. Or, you can look at it this way, use 1 teaspoon for each arm, each leg, your back, stomach, and so on.

How Do You Wear and Re-apply SPF While Wearing Makeup?

Apply an SPF lotion every morning before you apply your makeup after you’ve cleansed and before your makeup primer. I love this Elizabeth Arden moisturizer with SPF 30 for my face. It wears really well under makeup:

Elizabeth ArdenElizabeth Arden Flawless Future Powdered by Ceramide Moisture Cream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30, $62 CAD, London Drugs

Re-apply throughout the day, when needed with an SPF powder, like these:

ColorescienceSunforgettable Brush-on Sunscreen SPF 50, $64 CAD, Color Science

BaremineralsbareMinerals Original Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15, $36 CAD, Sephora

Physicians FormulaPhysicians Formula Super CC Powder SPF 30, $13.99 CAD, London Drugs

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