SUNSCREEN 101: Back to Basics

With spring break upon us and summer quickly approaching, it’s time to reacquaint our pale winter bodies with the sun again. We’re bringing it back to the basics of SPF with some tips and tricks for you to get back into the groove of things.

1. Benefits of sunscreen

Aside from saving you from a serious and not so cute sunburn, sunscreen has a few other tricks up its sleeve to protect your skin. First, it slows down the development of wrinkles and signs of aging skin to help you look #foreveryoung. Second, it reduces the penetration of UV rays, which we’ll get into more later, to protect you against harmful skin damage. Third, it helps reduce skin discoloration aka those brown spots, blotchiness and redness. 

2. UVA vs. UVB rays

The sun has two types of harmful ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. What’s the difference between them? UVA rays make up around 95% of the ultraviolet rays that hit earth’s surface and are very prevalent in our everyday lives - they can penetrate through clouds and even glass. They penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause pre-mature aging skin and wrinkling. UVB rays damage the most outer layers of the skin, which is what causes sunburns and can cause some other harmful skin damage. 

Some sunscreens protect against only UVB rays, so it’s important to check if your sunscreens are “broad spectrum” sunscreens that protect against both.

3. Don’t let the SPF numbers fool you 

The SPF number on your sunscreen is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. Sunscreen with higher SPF numbers can tempt people to apply less sunscreen and stay in the sun longer, but higher SPF numbers are only minimally more effective. Here’s a quick breakdown of how much protection the numbers offer:

SPF 15 - filters about 93% of UVB rays
SPF 30 - filters about 97% of UVB rays
SPF 50 - filters about 98% of UVB rays
SPF 100 - filters about 99% of UVB rays

4. Wear sunscreen every damn day 

While sunscreen is synonymous with summer and sun-filled days, UV rays still exist on cloudy - and even snowy - days. Rain or shine, applying SPF is one of those everyday things, like washing your face, combing your hair or brushing your teeth. 

If putting on sunscreen isn’t part of your daily routine already, it’s an easy step to add after washing your face in the AM - and it literally takes less than 15 seconds to do. Bonus points if your sunscreen is multifunctional (ahem, Resting Beach Face) to keep your mornings fuss-free.

While there isn’t a concrete order of applying sunscreen, moisturizer and makeup, applying sunscreen before moisturizer will allow the sunscreen to absorb into the skin and act more effectively. Applying it under your moisturizer will also give your face a nice hydrated base to then apply your makeup onto.

5. Reapply, reapply, reapply

The golden rule of SPF is to apply 20-30 minutes before sun exposure. This gives your SPF a good amount of time to sink into your skin and get working before being exposed to the sun. 

We know spring break is right around the corner and there will be many pools and oceans to be cannonballing into. Don’t forget to reapply your SPF after getting in the water as sunscreen will not be as effective after a fresh swim (note to self: apply sunscreen to dry, not wet, skin). If you’re staying on dry land, reapply every 2 hours or as directed on your sunscreen bottles.

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