When the sun comes out, it’s only natural to reach for the SPF. Of course, protecting your skin from the sun shouldn’t be just a summertime habit. After all, harmful ultraviolet rays — the ones responsible for skin cancer, sunburns, and premature aging — don’t go away just because it’s cold or cloudy outside, the American Academy of Dermatology notes.
“UV rays can harm our skin during any season and any type of weather,” says Sourab Choudhury, DO, a board-certified dermatologist and the chief medical officer at Dermatology Specialists in New York City. “The temperature outside doesn’t matter from a UV perspective. The sun’s rays can shine just as powerfully on a cold day as they might during the summer.”
Dr. Choudhury says that even short and intense exposure to sun, such on a walk down the street or during a car ride on a sunny day, can cause sun damage. “Apply sunscreen generously and apply it often, even when it’s cloudy,” he says. And if possible, give yourself at least half an hour after applying your sunscreen before you leave your home — this will help give your sunscreen time to “bind” to your skin before you’re exposed to the sun, per the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Sure, it adds an extra step to your day, but it’s worth it. Studies show that sunscreen can help protect against three common skin cancers — squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma — according to Harvard Health Publishing. The American Cancer Society notes that if you protect your skin from UV radiation, you can help prevent most skin cancers diagnosed in the United States (which number over five million annually). Plus, shielding your skin from the sun can help slow the signs of aging, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Your arsenal of sun-protection products isn’t limited to traditional sunscreens, though. Today, the market is filled with other types of skin-care products with built-in SPF, sunscreens that are lighter and less greasy than those of yesteryear, and clothing with sun protection woven into the fabric.
Here are 10 sun-care products that the pros recommend.
1. EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44
Kathleen Suozzi, MD, the director of aesthetic dermatology at Yale Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, loves this sunscreen from EltaMD for its hydrating properties: “It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, so it is very hydrating and leaves a dewy finish to the skin,” she says. This mineral sunscreen offers sun protection thanks to zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, two ingredients which help shield you from harmful UV rays by deflecting them away from the skin (per an article in Consumer Reports).
EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44, $36.50, Dermstore.com
2. Coolibar UPF Clothing
Clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) provide full coverage against the sun and can be especially useful for those who have trouble remembering to reapply sunscreen, as well as those who tend to miss a spot when applying. It’s true that all clothing protects your skin from the sun to a certain degree, but UPF clothing takes it a step further, says Todd Minars, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Minars Dermatology in Hollywood, Florida. “UPF clothing works by being very tightly woven together so that the sun's UV rays can't penetrate to reach the skin,” he says. “What's nice about UPF clothing is that it's all day and doesn't need to be reapplied, as long as you keep your clothing on.” He likes items from the brand Coolibar, which has sizes and styles for the whole family. For an outdoor walk or hike, try its short-sleeve fitness T-shirt, which has UPF 50 plus, for instance.
Women’s Devi Short-Sleeve Fitness T-Shirt UPF 50 Plus, $49, Coolibar.com
3. C’est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Nava Greenfield, MD, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, says that this C’est Moi sunscreen is perfect for her sensitive skin. “It is very protective with only mineral blockers and won’t cause breakouts,” she says. “I love the travel size, which is small enough for me to bring in my bag wherever I go so I can reapply.”
Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $15, CestMoi.com
4. EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
This face sunscreen fulfills the necessary duties of protecting against harmful UVA and UVB rays, which contribute to accelerating the signs of aging and sunburns, respectively, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. But there are also plenty of features that set it apart from other face sunscreens: It’s available in tinted and untinted versions; it’s unscented; and it won’t cover your face with a greasy sheen. “I love that it doesn't feel heavy or greasy like traditional sunscreen, which makes it easy for me to wear it every day," says Lavanya Krishnan, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Arya Derm in San Francisco. Another plus: This sunscreen contains niacinamide, an ingredient that research suggests may help reduce hyperpigmentation and redness.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $37, Dermstore.com
5. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60
Choudhury names this as his favorite chemical-based sunscreen because of its broad-spectrum protection. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and turn them into heat, thereby protecting your skin, per the American Academy of Dermatology. Meanwhile, physical sunscreens (also called “mineral”) sit on the skin and deflect the sun’s rays. Chemical-based sunscreens are generally preferred by adults because they don’t appear opaquely white on the skin, as some physical sunscreens do, Choudhury says. With chemical sunscreens like this one, be sure to apply it 30 minutes before heading outside for the benefits to take effect. “Some folks walk right out the door immediately after applying a chemical sunscreen, not realizing they’ve gone unprotected for the entire half hour,” Choudhury says.
Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60, $35.99, LaRoche-Posay.us
6. Blue Lizard Kids Mineral-Based Sunscreen SPF 50 Plus
Here’s a physical sunscreen that Choudhury recommends for people who are concerned about irritation from chemical absorption, which can be a problem for children with sensitive skin. “Blue Lizard is my physical sunscreen of choice because it’s gentle, protective of the skin, and doesn’t appear as white as some other formulations on the market,” Choudhury says.
Kids Mineral-Based Sunscreen SPF 50 Plus, $28.99, BlueLizard.net
7. A Big, Floppy Hat of Your Choice
Jennifer Gordon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas, approaches sun care from many angles. “Since SPF alone is not usually enough, I love UPF clothing and big hats to help protect,” she says. There are several brands out there, but one endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation is the Wallaroo Hat Company, which has UPF hats of various colors and sizes. For example, you could try the Scrunchie, a top-rated hat that offers UPF 50 plus.
Scrunchie Women's Sun Protection Hat, $47, WallarooHats.com
8. Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 50
“It has a brush applicator, which my kids love to use. It's like magic dust with just the right SPF,” says Rita Linkner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. “Not only do I use it on my kids, I use it myself during the daytime if I need a touch-up as well. It’s convenient, as it’s so easy to reapply, and stands up to a traditional lotion SPF.” Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, MD, a board-certified dermatologist also with Westlake Dermatology, loves Sunforgettale’s powder format, too. She says it makes for easy reapplication without having to layer on another liquid or mess up makeup throughout the day.
Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50, $69, Colorescience.com
9. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion SPF 30
Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says sun damage shouldn’t only be a concern for beach bums. “Even incidental light exposure adds up over a lifetime,” he says. That’s why he’s a fan of this water gel lotion from Neutrogena. “It has a light gel consistency that doesn’t leave me feeling greasy, especially in the humid summer weather,” Dr. Zeichner says.
Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion SPF 30, $11.99, Neutrogena.com
10. BioCorneum Advanced Scar Treatment
It’s important to protect all of your skin from the sun’s dangerous rays, but you should pay extra close attention to new scars. “One little known fact is that exposing immature scars, less than a year old, to the sun can have detrimental effects, including pigmentation on the ultimate scar,” says Joshua Zuckerman, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon based in New York City. He likes this gel because it includes SPF 30. That’ll protect the scar from the sun, ultimately leading to a smoother, improved appearance. On Amazon, the gel is part of BioCorneum's scar treatment package.
BioCorneum Advanced Scar Treatment, $20.19, Amazon.com
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