The best sun protection is the one that you actually will use! Depending on skin types and the situation, people can be unmotivated to use it. We know that the sun, as lovely as it feels, does cause skin cancers and premature aging. When I was young I didn’t want to wear sunblock, in fact I would tell my mom that I wanted to have leather skin. I thought it looked tough and cool. It wasn’t until 20 years ago when I started working in dermatology that I decided I didn’t want the leather skin or the skin cancers. Perhaps if I had a tinted sunblock that I liked many years ago I would have been motivated to use it. I’ve always recommended physical (mineral) blocks over chemical blocks. Remember our skin absorbs everything we put on it so when we have a choice I recommend using ingredients that will less likely will be carcinogenic or allergenic. Active ingredients should be Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. Here are some categories to try and break it down, but of course they all overlap somewhat.
- People of color– It isn’t motivating to rub on a sunblock that leaves a white cast on darker skin. Just because the sun damage isn’t as obvious in POC it’s still very important. I recommend Black girl sunscreen or Elta MD clear. Recently I discovered a great mineral sunblock that has multiple shades called Suntegrity if a tint is desired.
- Fair/lighter skin- My personal favorite sunblock to use on face is the physical sunblock, Elta MD Elements or Suntegrity. They are very motivating to use because of a tint which gives just enough coverage and provides a glow. They don’t clog pores so is great for acne prone skin as well. For those who do not want a tint I like Elta MD Restore. For the body I like Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray.
- Babies/Kids– For babies and kids sun protective clothing is really the best option. Think rash guards, hats, and umbrellas! If over 6 months use zinc based sunblocks on the areas you can’t cover. The zinc oxide mineral sits on top of the skin and scatters/absorbs the UVA/UVB and won’t absorb into the bloodstream. I recommend Badger & Blue Lizard. Sticks are very convenient for the face and on the go; California Baby , Badger & Babybum face sticks are good ones. It’s all a bit like rubbing in crayons, but be grateful that young kids don’t notice the white residue until they are older.
- Active Runners/swimmers– Sweating can really be a problem when trying to keep sunblock in place but you active outdoor people really need protection! In addition to finding a sunblock, there is an oral supplement which does offer some protection, it is derived from a marine plant called Polypodium leucotomos fern, called Heliocare. A sunblock I recommend for athletes is Thinksport mineral sunblock. A good spray is Blue Lizard, but always be mindful not to inhale these sprays.
- Lips– Let’s not forget our delicate lips. Skin cancers from sun like squamous cell carcinoma can be very aggressive on this area so lets try to prevent that. Again we want to find a mineral block that we enjoy using. I’ve found a couple that I love; Elta MD lip balm and Suntegrity Mineral Sunscreen Lip Gloss. My favorite colors are Beach Bonfire and Skinny Dip!
- Men/Those who “Don’t like sunblock feel“- I have to say several men I’ve come across really don’t like using sunblock because it feels “greasy” or “sticky”. A few that really seem to sink in are La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen and Elta MD clear. For those with some balding don’t forget the scalp, use a hat or Sun bum scalp mist.
- On a budget– Some sunblocks can get pretty expensive especially when using more natural high quality ingredients. It’s great that more and more companies are getting on board making mineral sunblocks so you don’t have to use chemical sunblocks. Banana Boat, Cetaphil, Blue lizard, and Neutrogena have some mineral options now. A fun fact: mint, the herb that grows freely & easily can help support sun protection when ingested, so add some yummy mint to your water or food!
Remember to seek shade whenever possible, reapply every 2 hours at least, and use enough sunblock for each area. We should be using a lot more than we think! Another little bit of info is that the SPF number isn’t something to focus on. This is a number given for UVB wavelengths not UVA- it has to do with how fast you will turn red. Instead focus on the ingredients in the sunblock to be sure you’re blocking both wavelengths A & B. Happy Sunblocking!