If you’re the type that just picks up whatever sunscreen you see first at the beauty store, you might be doing your skin a serious disservice. Sunscreen is essential to maintaining skin health, but not all sunscreens are created equal! There are two major types of sun protectants available: physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. Depending on your lifestyle, skin type and skin concerns, you are better off choosing one over the other. Read on for a foolproof way to figure out what you should be slathering on every morning.
What it is: Physical sunscreen contains mineral ingredients that sit on top of the skin, creating a physical barrier that deflects UV rays. They are thicker and sometimes difficult to spread.
Key ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide
Best for: Sensitive skin, rosacea, eczema, acneic skin
Not recommended for: Activities where you are likely to sweat a lot
What it is: Chemical sunscreens actually absorb into the skin, converting UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin. They are thinner and easier to apply but can cause stinging, irritation, and clogged pores.
Key ingredients: Oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone
Best for: Physical activity that will cause sweating
Not recommended for: Sensitive skin, dry skin, acneic skin, skin prone to dark spots, inflammatory skin types
If you don’t love the thickness of physical sunscreen, look for one that contains mostly zinc oxide with a smaller percentage of a chemical sunscreen. These combo products have the gentleness of a physical sunscreen with increased spreadability—perfect for wearing daily under makeup.
Choosing the Right SPF
According to the FDA, your skin doesn’t experience any continued protection above SPF 50. Don’t spend the extra bucks on SPF 100. Instead, look for a sunscreen somewhere between SPF 30 and SPF 50 and reapply every two hours to keep your skin safe.
Choosing a Format
You should always use a cream or lotion sun protectant. Sprays and powders don’t provide enough coverage and can easily leave unprotected patches that you don’t notice until it’s too late!
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