Earlier this week, research revealed that melanoma is on the rise, particularly in young women. Some dermatologists believe that it’s because of tanning salons; others attribute the high rates to childhood sunburns. Whatever the reason, it’s certainly not due to a lack of SPF products and sunscreens on the market—but many of us still don’t know which ones to use. To figure out which products are best (and how to use them), we spoke to Mandy Epley, Master Aesthetician at Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa in New York City.
Why use a separate SPF?
With so many moisturizers and cosmetics on the market containing SPF, it’s hard to imagine why you’d need a separate sunscreen at all. But Epley insists that you’re better off using one: “if you live in warm climates or when it’s Summer or on beach vacations, it is Most important to have a separate SPF.” Separate use provides better protection, in part because you can reapply and ensure that you’re using a sufficient amount, but also because it allows you to choose which type of SPF to use.
What are the different types of SPF, and which is the safest for my skin?
You’ve probably noticed that some sunscreens feel (and even look) different than others. That’s because the stuff that’s in your tinted moisturizer isn’t the same as the stuff that’s in a lifeguard’s nose stick. Epley explains:
Sunscreens fall into 2 broad categories: Absorbers (which create a chemical reaction to absorb UV) or reflectors (which are physical barriers that block or reflect UV rays away from the skin). Commonly used absorbers include octyl salicylate, octyl methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone. All of which are okay ingredients. The reflectors are titanium dioxide & zinc oxide. Any of these are okay and do not need to be avoided. What you need to avoid are parabens. These are what clog pores & break people out, not active ingredients. Some common parabens are Ethyl, Butyl. Methyl, Propyl, and Parahydroxybenzoate.
While chemical sunscreens can be effective for minimal sun exposure, many dermatologists recommend using a physical sunscreen if you’ll be outside for extended periods of time or, if you’re sticking with a chemical SPF, remember to reapply often (the chemical SPF breaks down over time in the sun).
How to use SPF with your other skincare and cosmetic products
Many women complain that, by the time they’ve used everything their dermatologist recommends, they’re dripping in layers of goop. And with products practically wiping off your face, it’s unclear whether the SPF is really doing any good. Epley recommends that clients cleanse, and depending on your skincare regimen, apply serum, moisturizer, and SPF. Apply makeup after allowing that to remain on the skin for about five minutes to absorb.
So which type is best for my skin type?
Epley says the most important thing is finding something that feels good—whether you have oily skin, acne, rosacea, or dry skin:
It’s always a good idea to use what feels best on the skin. Physical, or reflector sunscreen is the white SPF we remember as a kid. There are some that are tinted now to blend in naturally with your skin tone. Chemical, or absorbers do just that; they absorb into the skin. Some sunscreens are thick, greasy & some are light-weight. You need to ask your esthetician which is best for your skin type.
Her recommendation to clients is usually EltaMD:
There is absolutely one for every skin type, including acne-proned skin & a waterproof Sport one. If you know your skin type, go to their website; I promise there is one just right for you with a low cost to boot.