Beach Beauty: A Dermatologist Clears Up a Few Things About SPF and "Natural" Sunscreens

Despite the fact that it’s probably never going to be warm or sunny in New York City ever again, we’re sure it must be spring somewhere out there in the world. And spring means sun. And sun means wrinkles and skin cancer (not to be negative or anything). We all know we should be using sunscreen, and we also know it’s not one of the sexier beauty products out there. But talk to us in 20 years when all your friends are asking you for the name of your plastic surgeon. You can smugly say, “Sunscreen.”
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
25
Despite the fact that it’s probably never going to be warm or sunny in New York City ever again, we’re sure it must be spring somewhere out there in the world. And spring means sun. And sun means wrinkles and skin cancer (not to be negative or anything). We all know we should be using sunscreen, and we also know it’s not one of the sexier beauty products out there. But talk to us in 20 years when all your friends are asking you for the name of your plastic surgeon. You can smugly say, “Sunscreen.”
Image Title1

Despite the fact that it’s probably never going to be warm or sunny in New York City ever again, we’re sure it must be spring somewhere out there in the world. And spring means sun. And sun means wrinkles and skin cancer (not to be negative or anything).

We all know we should be using sunscreen, and we also know it’s not one of the sexier beauty products out there. But talk to us in 20 years when all your friends are asking you for the name of your plastic surgeon. You can smugly say, “Sunscreen.”

The sunscreen shelf can be confusing, so we needed some expert advice. We talked to Dr. Heidi Waldorf, Director of Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center here in NYC:

What is the optimal SPF coverage number to use when spending the day out in the sun? Use a product with an SPF of at least 30 and at least one of the following active ingredients ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, mexoryl and/or tinosorb. What do you think of the new SPF 100 products (and higher SPF products in general)? Do they make a difference? The SPF only tells you about the ability of the product to protect against the short wave UVB (burning) rays. While higher SPF products do give added protection against sunburn, they don't necessarily give you special protection against the longer wave UVA (aging and tanning) rays. In order to protect their skin fully, consumers still need to remember to re-apply their sunscreen regularly even if they don't feel they are burning. When should one apply SPF products and how often to apply? Apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you are going outdoors--this is particularly important for chemical sunscreen ingredients that need to be absorbed well. I generally suggest applying sunscreen before you get dressed in the morning as though you were wearing a bathing suit, that way you don't worry about getting it on your clothing and you don't miss areas. Reapply within the first hour outdoors and then every one to two hours and after swimming or sweating. What are your favorite brands? Anthelios, Neutrogena, Aveeno -- you can't go wrong with any of these and there are enough options for every skin type and body area. Any thoughts on "natural" vs chemical vs barrier products? There actually aren't any "natural" sunscreen ingredients. And the "organic" labeling is meaningless here--in fact, the FDA defines the chemical sunscreen ingredients as organic sunscreens and the physical blocks as inorganic sunscreens. In general I like a product that contains both chemical and physical protection. For sensitive skin, a physical block is best.

So while a parasol is cute, it limits movement a bit--slather on the sunscreen and go.