Hey guys, cooler weather is finally here, but you know one thing that doesn’t chill? The sun. It’s always here, and it’s important to protect your skin from damaging UV rays year round. Most likely you’ve heard you need to moisturize with an SPF; and this is true. It’s not only the single most effective prevention of aging we can do, but also the cheapest.
SPF Essential Info
What does SPF Mean?
Because you were always wondering, SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF is basically the time factor that you can be exposed to the sun without getting sunburned. In other words, an SPF of 30 would enable you to stay in the sun about 30 times longer than you could without it.
Cover all your SPF bases (and spectrums)
Be sure to use a product with at least an SPF of 15, and use enough to cover your face and neck. A lot of cancerous cells are found on the back of the neck and ears guys, so if you’re going to be in the sun for any extended period of time, give all your bare skin some love. Don’t forget the back of your hands too, they show age just like facial skin.
Most importantly, be sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen, which covers both UVB and UVA ranges. While most block UVB (the burning rays) not all of them are true broad spectrum (and some are better than others, more on that later). The A in UVA is for aging (not officially) and these longer wavelength rays penetrate deeper in the skin tissue, causing cellular damage to your DNA and break down of collagen fibers. They also pass through clouds, so you need an SPF rain or shine.
Chemical vs. Physical
We’re talking about the active ingredients here. Chemical ones (Avobenzone, Octinoxate, and Oxybenzone, etc) actually are absorbed and metabolized by your skin cells. They work by absorbing the byproduct of UV radiation in skin. They are used in varying combinations with each other, as each “blocks” different ranges of the UV light spectrum. These are the most common ones you’ll see on drugstore shelves and cosmetic counters. Most of them are quickly absorbed, non-greasy, and cosmetically elegant on the skin.
What’s wrong with them? Well for one, they only last about 2 hours (max), and who reapplies face moisturizer during the day? Also, lots of health nuts swear off chemicals saying they are toxic and blah blah, but all of them have been through rigorous FDA trials for approval. However, some like Oxybenzone have been shown to be minor endocrine disruptors, aka they increase estrogen levels in men. That one is totally worth avoiding.
Finally, if you don’t get out in the sun much and you prefer the comfort in your chemicals, there are newer, better sunscreen ingredients finally available in the US that are under the name brand Mexoryl that are superior UVA blockers. If you go chemical, these are the best protection and the ones to look for on the ingredient list.
Examples: Jack Black Double Duty Moisturizer SPF 20 , La Roche Posay Anthelios SX (w/ Mexoryl), Supergoop City Serum SPF 30
Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 15
Best for: All skin types, Drug store buy
La Roche Posay Anthelios SX
Best for: Sensitive Skin
Jack Black Double Duty SPF 20
Best for: All skin types
Supergoop! Anti-Aging City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30
Best for: Combination and Oily Skin and hot climates
So let’s get physical, right?
Hold up. The biggest con with a lot of physical sunscreen ingredients (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) is that they aren’t broad spectrum, or that they leave a white cast on the skin and don’t absorb. A physical SPF that only has Titanium Dioxide is not truly broad spectrum. Ok, that leads us to adding zinc, and that damn lifeguard nose. Not to worry, science again for the win, they’ve made transparent forms of zinc oxide; it’s been processed into nanoparticles. These formulas behave just like lotions without SPF and offer the benefit of all day performance (if you don’t sweat it off or wash/wipe it off) and not being absorbed into the skin. You might see a lot of hipster brands touting non-nano zinc as a safer alternative, but it is proven only harmful to the body if inhaled into the lungs (aka a powdered state), so no worries in your cream. I recommend and prefer these for superior and lasting broad spectrum UV protection.
Examples: Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46, Josie Maran SPF 47 with sunboost ATP, Replenix Sheer SPF 50, Ursa Major SPF (non-nano zinc)
Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46
Best for: Combination, Oily, or Acne Prone
Replenix Sheer Physical Sunscreen Cream SPF 50
Best for: Normal to Oily Skin, beach bag and outdoors
Ursa Major Force Field Daily Moisturizer SPF 18
Best for: All skin types
Josie Maran Daily Argan Moisturizer with Sun Boost ATP SPF 47
Best for: Normal to Dry skin
A final argument against sunscreens is that they can cause vitamin D deficiencies; this is true, and is quite common not just in habitual sunscreen users but also anyone who doesn’t get a lot of sun exposure. If you’re concerned about it, vitamin D supplements are available at any health food store or pharmacy, but always consult your doctor before adding any to your routine. In the end, it’s about preserving our health and our appearance, in that order. Be responsible guys!
(1) Towards a Definition of Inorganic Nanoparticles from an Environmental, Health and Safety Perspective. Auffan et. al. Nature Nanotechnology Sept. 13, 2009.
(2) Nanotechnology Scientific Research Website, Food and Drug Administration
Hello I’m Wes, born and raised in SC. I am an engineer and self professed nerd and grooming junkie with a passion for skincare and fragrance.