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How to Choose and Use the Best Sunscreen

Selecting the right sunscreen product and using it correctly is vital for success.


Photo: Shutterstock

Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place in May, is right around the corner, and nothing can match the unique functions and benefits of an effective sunscreen to not only minimize the risk of skin cancer but also the role it plays in maintaining a healthy skin barrier and helping slow down the visible signs of skin aging.

Even if you’re using the best sunscreen available, you have to meet it halfway. You can do this by making sure your skin barrier is strong and resilient. The effectiveness of a sunscreen depends largely on how well it can bind to the skin, and the healthier your skin barrier is, the more surface area it will adhere to.

I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing the right product as well as using it correctly to maintain a healthy skin barrier. 

How to choose:

  • Broad-spectrum protection: This means the sunscreen protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. While UVB rays are mostly what cause sunburn and skin cancer, UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply, are primarily responsible for photoaging (e.g. the appearance of wrinkles, sagging, and uneven texture).
  • Sun protection factor (SPF) 50 or higher: This number indicates how long it will take the UV rays to burn your skin (assuming you’re using the sunscreen properly) relative to the time it will take to burn without any sunscreen at all. In other words, it would take 50 times longer to burn your skin with an SPF 50 sunscreen compared to not having any protection.
  • Water-resistant. Even if you’re not swimming, a water-resistant sunscreen will be less likely to rub off in the face of humidity and other factors

How to use:

  • Apply sunscreen every day, rain or shine, or anything in between. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the beach, snowboarding, driving with the windows up, in an airplane, or working indoors all day—your skin is being exposed to those UV rays.
  • Make sunscreen the final step of your skincare regimen. Sunscreen needs time to bind to the outer layer of the skin for maximum benefit and protection.
  • Apply to cool, dry skin in the morning. Put it on 15 to 30 minutes before leaving the house, or before going outdoors for an extended length of time.
  • Make sure to reapply, especially if you’re outdoors for an extended period. If you can, reapply every two hours (more if you can). Set a timer!
  • Use the right amount. For the face and all exposed areas of the body, that’s one full ounce (about the size of a shot glass—yes, you read that right!).
  • Don’t forget the neglected areas. This includes behind the ears, the neck, chest, hands, and lips.

For more sunscreen suggestions, don’t miss Breaking Down 7 Sunscreen Myths Plus 24 Spectacular Suncare Products to Keep Your Skin Safe This Summer.

About The Author

Carl is a practicing dermatologist with 40 years of skin research experience, 15 U.S. patents granted, and more than 50 scientific journal publications in the area of treatment of skin diseases and conditions, including chapters in 10 dermatological textbooks. He is the founder and CEO of Episciences, Inc., creator of Epionce. He also authored the book The New Ideal Skin Health, published in 2010. Along with these accomplishments, he has spent nearly three decades focusing on researching the skin barrier, cutaneous inflammatory conditions, and delivering ingredients and herbal medicines. His drive toward expertise in the dermatology field stems from his own skincare struggles. Two of his favorite sunscreens are Epionce Ultra Shield SPF 50 or Daily Shield Tinted SPF 50. Both have the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation as effective broad-spectrum sunscreens.