What Is the Best Sunscreen to Use? Here’s What to Look For.

Hands of female customer comparing two brands of sunscreen

Many people already know that too much sun is bad for your skin.

That makes sunscreen an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. When used correctly, it reduces your risk of skin cancer and helps you avoid premature aging.

And sunscreen isn’t just for a trip to the beach. For best results, it should be part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. Apply it every day, for work or play, even during the winter, no matter what the weather does.

But with so many different brands competing for your wallet, how do you know which one to choose? To help you out, let’s go over the features everyone should look for. We’ll also share a few special considerations to help you find the best sunscreen for your individual skin care plan.

What Are the Most Important Criteria when Choosing a Sunscreen?

Start with the basics. Above all else, you need a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection with an SPF of at least 30. Water resistance is another essential feature. 

  • Broad spectrum protection. This means your sunscreen will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the primary culprit behind sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays also raise your risk of skin cancer and contribute to premature aging. 
  • SPF of 30 or higher. The sun protection factor tells you the level of protection against UVB rays, and the higher the better. An SPF of 30 filters out approximately 97% of UVB rays. 
  • Water resistance. Although no sunscreen is truly waterproof, a water-resistant brand will protect you for 40 to 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. However, it will rub off when you towel dry, so you will need to reapply. 

What’s the Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen?

Another thing you may have heard about is mineral and chemical sunscreens. What is the difference, and does it matter which one you choose?

For most people, it comes down to personal preference. A physical or chemical sunscreen will work just as well at protecting you from the sun. However, in some instances one or the other may work best depending on individual skin characteristics. 

Mineral sunscreens work like a reflective barrier. Also known as physical sunscreens, they scatter UV rays before they can penetrate your skin. Most brands will contain either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. 

Chemical sunscreens contain special ingredients that act as filters. They absorb the UV rays and transform them into heat, which prevents them from damaging your skin. Common active ingredients include avobenzone, homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, octisalate and oxybenzone. 

Is It Okay to Use the Same Sunscreen for Face & Body?

The short answer is “yes,” but use caution. 

When it comes to your main goal of protecting against sunburn, most broad-spectrum sunscreens will work just as well on your face or body.

However, many people find that the face is more sensitive than the rest of our bodies. That means a product designed for your body may cause irritation when applied to the face. 

Facial sunscreens are usually gentler while still giving you the same protection. An oil-free brand is less likely to cause breakouts for those with acne. In addition, many body sunscreens may leave a visible residue which you may not want on your face. 

What’s the Right Sunscreen for Your Skin Type?

In addition to choosing a different formulation for your face and body, you may also wish to purchase a sunscreen designed for your skin type. Below are some things to look for, but you can also stop by the clinic or medical spa and our staff would be happy to help you find the best sunscreen for you. 

  • Oily skin produces more sebum that it needs and has a familiar shiny appearance. If that sounds like you, a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is a good choice. Look for an oil-free brand that is non-comedogenic so that it won’t clog your pores. Finally, if you are using acne treatments like doxycycline or tretinoin, these may increase your risk of sunburn. Choose a higher SPF to help lower your risk.
  • Dry skin produces too little sebum and may become tight and flaky. Look for a sunscreen with moisturizing ingredients such as ceramides or hyaluronic acid. You may also apply sunscreen on top of a regular moisturizer. Just wait five minutes between applications for best results. 
  • If you have sensitive skin, avoid ingredients that may cause irritation. Examples include alcohol, fragrances, oxybenzone, salicylates, cinnamates or para-aminobenzoic acid or PABA. Soothing ingredients that may inhibit irritation include panthenol, allantoin and madecassoside. A mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide may be less likely to cause a negative reaction. 

Follow These Additional Sun-Smart Habits

As always, don’t rely on sunscreen alone for sun protection. Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet rays are the strongest. Wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that block UV light. Finally, don’t use tanning beds or sunlamps. They increase your risk of skin cancer and do permanent damage. 
If you have questions or concerns about possible sun damage, or to find the right sunscreen to best fit you, call Cayce Medical Spa at 573-234-6930 or schedule an appointment online. We’ll examine your skin and recommend a personalized care plan that helps you stay safe and look your best!