What we know now about how the sun affects our skin has come a long way since the days of lathering up in baby oil, basking in the rays and hoping for the best. There are countless benefits to using sunscreen daily, from anti-aging to avoiding harmful skin ailments. But there’s a lot of confusion surrounding when to use it, when to reapply it, how much is needed and more.
The simple answer? You should wear sunscreen all the time, even while indoors, driving and getting a gel manicure. Here, we answer your burning (pun intended) questions about everything sun protection with the help of dermatologist Dr. Renita Ahluwalia.
Why do you need to wear sunscreen?
Sunscreen helps protect the skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Ultraviolet A (UVA) waves are associated with skin aging, while ultraviolet B (UVB) rays cause skin burning and are known for changing the colour of your skin. UVB rays can also cause cancer.
What you need to pay attention to is the SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, seen on any sunscreen label. What does that number mean? Simply put, the SPF tells you how long the sun’s rays would take to redden your skin compared to if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. But that’s only if used as instructed and reapplied every two hours. Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 blocks s from penetrating the skin, which greatly reduces your risk of carcinoma and melanoma.
How much sunscreen do you need to wear?
This is the million-dollar question. “A good rule is taking two fingertips and applying a line of sunscreen onto each for the face.” “For the body, use a shot glass amount.” Of course, this can vary depending on how much surface area of skin you have, but this easy measuring method offers a helpful starting point.
For a stick or spray sunscreen, which are harder to measure, she says to “ensure full, even coverage over all areas. Sprays have to be blended in to make sure patches are not missed.” She adds that sun protection should be worn on all exposed skin, 365 days of the year. Thin woven fabrics only provide minimal protection, so it’s even necessary to wear SPF under these types of garments. It’s great general practice to always use sunscreen on your face, neck and hands. If you’re worried about your clothing sticking to you, the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen absorbs quickly into the skin, leaving behind an invisible smooth layer of protection. For those with dry skin, the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which quenches skin with vital hydration and doesn't leave a white cast. For anyone with acne-prone skin, use a sunscreen that won’t cause breakouts, like the Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion.
Do you need to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, and if so, when?
Only applying sunscreen in the morning will likely result in red skin and significant discomfort. No sunscreen is long-lasting; it only takes two hours to break down in the sunlight. “It’s also important [to] after sweating and swimming,” says. “Formats like serums, sticks and sprays make it quick and easy.” For example, the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen is easy to spritz all over your body (and get those hard-to-reach areas like the back of the neck).
Remember that sunscreens labelled water resistant only maintain their SPF for 40 minutes of water submersion. To get the most out of your sunscreen, Ahluwalia says to apply it 15 minutes before sun exposure. The exception is mineral sunscreen, which provides protection right away—the Neutrogena Mineral Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Face & Body Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 is a great portable option that’s easy to apply throughout the day.
My moisturizer and makeup products have SPF. Is that enough protection?
You’d have to use a lot of SPF-infused cosmetics for them to be truly as effective as sunscreen, Ahluwalia says, adding that it’s essential to use a separate sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher under your makeup and moisturizer, regardless of if they include sun protection. always, always, always use sunscreen as the last step before applying your makeup. Sunscreen with built-in skincare properties, like the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Serum Sunscreen, is an effective way to give your face some added moisture while protecting it against sun damage. Bonus: the serum sunscreen also acts as a makeup primer saving a step in your daily routine.
Do I need to wear sunscreen when at home or driving?
You might think you don’t need sunscreen when indoors, but the truth is that you do. Whether driving in your car or working beside a window, SPF should be a vital part of your skincare routine. We often see patients who frequently drive with more sun damage on the left side of their face,” she says, adding that the Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion is a great daily solution. It’s fast-absorbing and lightweight—and won’t clog pores. Additionally, blue light from screens can lead to signs of aging, like hyperpigmentation, she adds. “Certain mineral sunscreens contain blue light filters, like iron oxide, which can protect from this.”
Should I protect my hands when getting gel manicures?
Some salons use LED lights to cure gel polishes and dry nails faster, but “LED lights emit high doses of UVA,” says Ahluwalia. She suggests using SPF 30 or higher on your hands—that’s why having the portable and mess-free Neutrogena Mineral Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Face & Body Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 in your bag at all times is a must—or investing in a pair of UPF gloves with the fingers cut out to protect your skin.
The best way to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays is to use sunscreen daily. Neutrogena has the right sunscreen product for you, no matter your specific needs. But even with being diligent about sun protection, it’s also important to do a skin cancer self-exam monthly. Visit the Neutrogena website for how to do a self-exam at home and for their full lineup of products.