Sunscreen is one of those beauty products that we know we have to use, but for the most part don't really like. Either it feels too greasy, makes us break out, or causes our makeup to look weird and slide off. But, because everyone from our mothers to our doctors to beauty editors have preached to us how important it is to help protect you from skin cancer and premature aging, we wear it (begrudgingly).
That was how we used to feel, until we tried EltaMD. This low-key brand is an absolute superstar of a sunscreen line because it not only works, but you barely even notice it's there. Plus, there is a wide range of options for every skin type and lifestyle. Pretty much every dermatologist uses it in their offices because it is gentle enough for even post-laser treatment or after a chemical peel.
There are versions for face and body, those for outdoor sports or just daily moisturizers, mineral and chemical, and spray or lotion. We love them all, but if we had to pick just one for every day use it's the UV Clear SPF 46 Oil-Free, which comes in both a tinted formula and a regular lotion. As Dr. Morgan Rabach, a board-certified dermatologist at LM Medical NYC in Manhattan (and EltaMD super-fan) explains, it is great for reactive skin like those with acne or rosacea, won't make you oily, and has skin-healthy ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid. "I love the UV Clear Tinted because it goes on sort of like a tinted moisturizer or lightweight foundation."
Jess uses it every day as part of her skin-care routine and it's both a staff and customer favorite. And when we're at the beach or doing outside activities (remember those?), we turn to the UV Sport SPF 50 Very Water Resistant because it can be applied on dry or wet skin and won't drip into our eyes and cause the dreaded sunscreen sting, no matter how much we sweat.
As every derm ever says, the best sunscreen is the one you wear — and we can wholeheartedly vouch for the EltaMD as being not only beyond easy to wear, but also to make your skin look better in the process, thanks to its moisturizing and antioxidant ingredients.
Because May is Melanoma Awareness Month, we wanted to go a step farther than just telling you about our favorite sunscreen. So, we asked Dr. Rabach to share her skin wisdom to dispel some common sunscreen myths, plus tips on how to get the most out of your SPF. Keep reading her best advice.
Does using a higher SPF mean stronger sun protection?
"The difference in protection between SPF 30, 50, and 70 is very, very slight. SPF stands for sun protection factor and it refers to how long a sunscreen protects you from UVB rays. UVB is the type of light that causes sunburn [and are thought to cause the majority of] skin changes that lead to skin cancer. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, and SPF 100 blocks 99 percent.
"The higher number SPF can give people a false sense of security that they have more protection and that can cause them to not reapply. No matter what SPF number you use, you need to reapply sunscreen every two hours."
What's a common sunscreen mistake people make?
"I see people applying spray sunscreens at the beach. Those take 20 minutes to actually start working, so it really should be done prior to going outside."
How much SPF should you be using and how do you keep it from feeling greasy?
"You’re supposed to put a shot glass full of sunscreen on your whole body [and nickel-sized amount on your face]. Look for oil-free sunscreens — those that contain zinc or titanium have less of a greasy feel."
Shen Tip: If you apply that entire nickel-sized amount on your face at once, it's going to feel greasy or heavy. Instead, apply it in a couple of layers, letting each layer sink in before you apply the next.
How should you decide if chemical or mineral sunscreen is better for you?
"Mineral sunscreens physically block the light from going into the skin cells, while chemical sunscreens allow the sunlight into the cells and then chemically disperse it.
"If you are someone that has hyperpigmentation or dark spots and uneven skin tone, then I would recommend using a mineral sunscreen, which physically blocks the light from entering the cell and causing hyperpigmentation."
Are there any ingredients that can make your sun protection more effective?
"One of the best studies that has come out in the last 5 or so years is the combination of antioxidant serums with sunscreen. Antioxidants are your protection to damage caused by UVA/UVB [that sunscreen doesn't address] as well as pollutants, smog, smoke, and dirt. Antioxidants bind to the free radicals that can create a series of reactions in a cell that leads to skin damage. Antioxidant examples include vitamin C, resveratrol, Coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, vitamin A, and niacinamide."
Shen Tip: We like combining EltaMD UV Clear, which has niacinamide, with mega-antioxidant Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum for maximum protection against every aspect of sun damage — including fine lines and hyperpigmentation.
What's your advice for people with acne-prone skin that break out every time they wear SPF?
"I would use a mineral sunscreen, that is oil free, because zinc has some anti-inflammatory properties and can help with acne. Also look for sunscreens specifically formulated for acne, like EltaMD UV Clear."
What's the most important thing people need to know about skin cancer?
"Skin cancer is curable if it’s caught in time! So everyone should get an annual skin check with a dermatologist."
Got more burning questions about sunscreen? Ask us in the comments below!