An SPF30 is the new SPF15, say our experts. Just in time, there's now a formula for every situation—and every skin type.
If you want better-looking skin, all the creams, concealers, brighteners, bronzers, and blushes in the world pale in comparison to the power of SPF30. Beyond defending against wrinkles and spots, some sunscreens may protect you against enlarged pores and even acne. And the higher SPF is worth it, says every dermatologist we talked to: "You need a teaspoon's worth of product just for your face," says bicoastal Dr. Karyn Grossman. "Most people don't do that. With a higher SPF, even if you don't use enough, you're better off."
On the Beach
"Use a long-lasting water-resistant sports sunscreen—minimum SPF25 to 30," says New York City dermatologist Dr. Howard Sobel.
"Apply it twice—before you leave home and once you arrive at your destination," says Ken Marenus, Ph.D., vice president of biological research at Clinique. Remember: There's no such thing as all-day waterproof. "No matter what the label says, reapply frequently, especially when you swim, towel off, or perspire a lot," says Grossman. "The effectiveness fades after a few hours."
The easier a product is to use, the more you'll use it. "Spray-ons are fast, easy to apply to hard-to-reach places, and nongreasy," points out Manhasset, New York, dermatologist Dr. Neil Brody. Grossman loves sticks: "You can take them into the water and reapply while you're surfing or whatever," she says.
Hard-core options: For extreme beach situations like scuba diving, Grossman advocates slathering on waterproof sport lotions.
In the Office
Even if you're mostly indoors, don't skimp on protection. "Just walking to work or catching a cab, you still get enough UV to damage your skin," warns Sobel. "It's accumulation: 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there." UVA rays filter through window glass, so even the car or corner office isn't safe. Miami and New York City dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt says there's markedly more sun damage on his patients' left arms than right: "From driving," he says.
Use a sunscreen or tinted SPF lotion in the morning and/or a makeup that includes sunscreen and antioxidants in the mix.
What to Wear Under Makeup
Lightweight sunscreens that are built to layer. Ingredient-wise, micronized titanium dioxide or zinc blend right in, as does Parsol 1789, otherwise known as avobenzone.
The newest formulas have cosmetic benefits beyond blending easily: Pick a mattifying one, an oil-free, or a tinted moisturizer—the bonus is that you'll wear it more often.
For Working Out
To keep sunscreen out of your eyes, find one that dries immediately to a stay-put, matte finish.
"It's the oldest advice, but it's true: Stay out of the sun between 11 AM and 1 PM," says Grossman. "Go out early in the morning or late in the afternoon."
If Your Skin Is...
OilyGo for oil-free or nongreasy.
Oil-free gels are great. "They're brilliant for acne," says Grossman.
Choose a sunscreen that can stand in for foundation.
DryStick to hydrating creams and lotions, says Sobel: "Skin-soothing ingredients, like aloe and green tea, are great."
Layer. "Use sunscreen as your daytime moisturizer," Grossman says. "If you need more hydration, put your regular moisturizer on top. The most important thing is to do the SPF first—it needs to be able to bind to your skin, and applying moisturizer first interferes with that."
Sensitive"Look for products with zinc and titanium—those are the least irritating ingredients," says Grossman.
Avoid gel sunscreens with a high alcohol content.
If You Hate the Feeling of Sunblock On Your Skin...
"Try specially designed UV-protective clothes, or a sunscreen that you wash right into your clothes," says Grossman. What works: long sleeves, high necks—no plunging necklines or tank tops.
Embrace beach umbrellas, broad-brim hats, and big sunglasses. "And no funky light blue or pink lenses," Grossman cautions. "You need dark UV-rated shades. Pale colors won't protect your eyes or the skin around them."
Look for sunscreens that contain chemical blocks like Parsol 1789 or physical ones that are micronized, which are less likely to feel heavy or tacky.
1. A person's risk for skin cancer doubles if she has had five or more sunburns.
2. Sun damage may enlarge pores and can exacerbate acne.
3. UV exposure ages your skin, causing wrinkles, blotches, brown spots, white spots, broken blood vessels, a leathery texture, and a loss of firmness. The fairer your complexion, the more vulnerable your skin.
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