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(Spoiler: the answer is yes.)
On days when it’s not hot and the sun is hiding, is it okay to skip the sunscreen? What about a cloudier, cooler day, or a day when your time outdoors will be limited?
A trio of experts shared why sunscreen is still necessary and clarified common myths and questions about daily use.
Applying sunscreen daily to sun-exposed areas is essential, not excessive.
“The sun’s UV rays are powerful, and just 15 minutes outdoors is enough to cause long-term damage and potentially cancer to the skin,” says Jessica “Nikki” Dietert, MD, Certified Dermatologist and Mohs Certified and Trained by the stock market. Surgeon at Westlake Dermatology in Austin.
You are not just exposed to the sun outside.
Dietert says cancers caused by sun exposure can be aggressive and deadly if left untreated. But prevention is the best cure.
“It is recommended to apply sunscreen daily to the face, neck, chest, ears, hands and arms to prevent long-term sun damage,” says Dietert.
Erum N. Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology, agrees and recommends applying SPF every morning as part of your skincare routine.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends finding a sunscreen that is:
- FPS 30+
- broad spectrum, which protects against UVA and UVB rays
Dietert explains that there are two main types of sunscreens: chemical sunscreens, which filter out UV light, and physical (mineral-based) sunscreens, which block UV light.
“[Mineral-based sunscreens] generally protect your skin from a broader spectrum of UV light,” says Dietert. “For this reason, finding a sunscreen with mineral ingredients is ideal.”
Dietert adds that these mineral-based sunscreens can be especially helpful for people with acne-prone or sensitive skin.
“These are less likely to cause skin irritation and allergies,” says Dietert.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two common ingredients in mineral sunscreens. Dietert recommends people with acne-prone skin look for niacinamide-based sunscreen and avoid oil-based ones, which can make the condition worse.
Protection against skin cancer is a commonly cited reason for applying sunscreen daily — and for good reason.
But review and dermatologists Anna Chacon, MD, and Ilyas point to other benefits, including:
- delay the signs of aging, such as wrinkles
- fading scars
- Prevent discoloration
- Protect from blue light
Chacon, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist, backs the review, saying sunscreen can also help delay the signs of aging.
Ilyas notes that lately people have become more interested in the blue light that emanates from electronic devices like tablets and iPhones.
“Although the effects of DNA damage on our cells are well documented, more than half of the spectrum of light emitted by the sun is visible light,” says Ilyas, who is also CEO and founder of AmberNoon. .
The myth that people of color don’t need sunscreen is damaging.
The authors suggested that lack of education about the risks of sun damage in these populations was one reason.
Dietert agrees, advising everyone to apply sunscreen daily, regardless of skin tone.
“Lighter skin tones have a higher risk of skin cancer,” Dietert says. “However, with sufficient UV exposure, all skin types can develop skin cancer.”
Dietert adds that UV exposure can also lead to aging in all populations.
Sun exposure helps people get vitamin D, which Chacon says is essential for bone formation.
But she says the benefits of wearing sunscreen outweigh the harms. “Too much UV light can damage the skin by burning the skin and possibly causing it to lose its elasticity, leading to premature aging,” says Chacon.
If you are someone who is concerned about vitamin D due to an existing deficiency, there are options to supplement without putting your skin at risk.
After talking with your doctor, you can take your pick from over-the-counter oral vitamin D supplements. You can also increase your natural intake through food, such as salmon and egg yolks.
For melanized skin
While there are tons of sunscreen options at varying prices, for people with melanin skin, the nasty white plaster that often accompanies sunscreen can be a hassle.
Brands like Supergoop are known for their absence of the dreaded white cast, as well as brands created by and for people with darker skin, like Black girl sunscreen.
What about makeup products with SPF?
Some makeup has an SPF, but Chacon warns that’s probably not enough protection. You may need to apply six to seven times the amount of a product to get the proper protection, which is more than most people use.
“I like to educate patients that makeup with sunscreen is more like ‘icing on the cake’ and is used more as an adjunct rather than a replacement,” says Chacon.
SPF is important, but experts say it’s best to approach sun protection through different layers of protection.
Dietert suggests wearing wide-brimmed hats and sun-protective or “UPF” clothing with a UPF of 50+.
But again, these measurements are one layer and not deny the need for sunscreen.
“Sunscreen is always important, even when wearing UPF clothing, to filter out UV rays reflected from surfaces like water or concrete,” Dietert says.
In addition to reapplying sunscreen every two hours, the AAD also recommends:
- avoid tanning beds
- look for shade
- be particularly attentive between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest
It is essential to apply sunscreen every day.
The sun’s rays can still damage the skin when it’s cloudy, and it doesn’t discriminate based on skin tone. Research suggests that even exposure to the sun through a car window can increase the risk of skin cancer.
Look for an SPF of 30+ and reapply every two hours if you’re in the sun. Experts say a mineral-based sunscreen is ideal because it protects against a broader spectrum, and acne sufferers should avoid oil-based products.
Other layers of protection, such as UPF clothing, can also protect against sun damage, but they don’t eliminate the need to wear sunscreen every day.
If you’ve felt deterred by high prices or that pesky white cast iron in the past, don’t worry – there are tons of options (including some available at drugstores) that contain the minerals and SPF your skin needs to stay healthy.