There is no shame like the gasp and prompt lecture my savvy Korean intern imposed when I admitted that I didn’t always, like every day, hey it’s raining, wear sunscreen. For fellow boneheads, not wearing sunscreen is the equivalent of asking to look like a dressed down Melisandre, and if you listen close enough, you can hear a collective uproar from the army of dutiful potions and serums screaming for protection.
If you’re not one for imagination, here is the cold, hard truth; there are only three things you can do to prevent aging, and sunscreen is the easiest. Prevention at any age is essential. In fact, 90% of visible aging is due to sun damage. Every single dermatologist I’ve encountered has been steadfast in recommending a diligent, daily routine of sunscreen, and when in doubt, reapply.
This summer, I spoke to Cynthia Rivas at Monica Halem’s office as I prepared my quest to find the damn best sunscreen on the market. Vainly, I am looking to maintain any illusion of wrinkle-less youth, while also efficiently protecting from skin cancer. There is a lot of marketing hoopla around any beauty product, but Cynthia kindly broke it down, and she advised that the critical component to any sunscreen is zinc oxide, she advised that you’ll need at least nine percent or higher to provide any real protection. Zinc oxide is the white stuff that really puts the buzz kill into the whole “sunkissed summer” look, and also never fails to remind me of tubular 80s noses, but it is a natural mineral that is water-soluble and blocks out the damaging UV rays.
It is recommended to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outside, reapplying every two hours and to be most cautious between 10-2pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Another point worth mentioning; any product with above SPF 50 is pumped up with chemicals, so try to stay below SPF 50 and plan to reapply.
Both UVA and UVB are essential, and serve different purposes, here is an easy way to remember :
UVA: Ages you and breaks down collagen
UVB: Burns your skin
Without further adieu, here is my summer sunscreen roundup:
If porcelain skin sounds appealing…
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
They’ve conquered the dermatologist market and for good reason. Great for sensitive skin, this product dissolved into my face extremely well. Initially, it felt a little bit sticky, but that wore off within minutes and then I was left with a matte face instead of my usual glossy disco ball sheen. Fragrance-free with broad-spectrum protection, oil-free and paraben-free, this is a great sunscreen for all skin types, but particularly for acne prone. This product also has lactic acid alongside moisturizer to keep pores clean and is excellent for wearing under makeup.
If you are a trendsetter and, by god, your SPF must also be trendy…
Glossier Invisible Shield, SPF 35
Leave it up to the genius Emily Weiss to create a translucent sunscreen. It’s more serum, gel-like and has a nice, light citrus sunscreen smell. This is sans zinc oxide but instead created with “little spheres packed with UVA/UVB filters (Avobenzone, Homosalate, and Octisalate)” which block out UV those harmful rays. This product is ahead of the curve for darker complexions as there is zero trace of white, ashy zinc, and good for city dwellers as it prevents pollution from coming in with an herbal concoction of fermented yeast and vegetal extract. As magical as this all sounds, please keep in mind that Invisible Shield is not water (or sweat) resistant.
If you won’t be caught dead outside of the house without makeup on…
Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50
This is an oil-free, mattifying finish mist to spritz on top of makeup for SPF coverage. Smells great, and is well designed for even distribution. Keep in mind this is more of a mist vs rubbing sunscreen into every nook and cranny, so if you are going to be in direct sunlight, I would still recommend a base layer of regular sunscreen. Same goes for water or sweating. But for easy coverage and everyday use, this is a good option for setting makeup while protecting.
If you’re on a staycation dreaming of Portofino…
Vive Sana SERUM CREMA SPF 20
Or maybe you just need to really invest in skincare to trick yourself into using it, either way, this stuff is a DREAM. Vive Sana means “healthy living” in Italian, it’s organic and mineral-based, and is so suave you’ll be whispering sweet nothings to your pores. It is a silky, mid-to-lightweight cream that feels more like a moisturizer than a sunscreen since it has four oils; argan, apricot, avocado, and jojoba. Super hydrating and equipped with a potent serum, this feels like putting youth back into your skin. The serum crema has 13.5% of non-nano zinc.
If you envy the skin (and parasols) of Japanese tourists…
SHISEIDO Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42
One of my personal favorites, it is exceptionally light, a little matte, and takes some blending but overall feels like it’s really doing work. Oil-free, non-comedogenic, and non-greasy, this has 12.5% zinc oxide in it while also minimizing pores and promoting coveted youthful skin.
If you’re a bargain hunter prowling Duane Reade…
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30
For $11 bones, you can get three ounces of coverage vs the others on this list which vary from $25-40 for one once. Hey, I’m not great at math, but this is a steal. I like this version vs other drugstore varieties because it is lightweight and is easy to layer upon. This also doesn’t have zinc-oxide, but more of a Glossier mix of (Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 8%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 4%, Oxybenzone 4%) all of which are chemical compounds to shield UVs, dubbed by Neutrogena as the Helioplex technology. This is a safe bet for all skin types, and so cheap that you can share on the beach with friends.
Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 30, 3 Fl. Oz. (Pack of 2)
If you’re chemical-free…
Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30
Loaded with a whopping 20% zinc oxide, Drunk Elephant’s sunscreen is chemical and silicone-free, making this very gentle for the most sensitive of skin. It feels sheer, but hearty enough to provide protection. It is infused with oils for better absorption. The only downside is that it is white and will require extra care when blending it into your skin, but overall, it provides great protection and won’t irritate your skin.
Umbra(TM) Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 3 oz/ 90 mL
If you’re still snoozing on the sunscreen, check out this video on how the sun sees you. According to the skin cancer foundation, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. (!!!!) Remember that you should be applying sun protection EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. No matter what the weather, clouds, or indoor to outdoor ratio may be. Use your noggin, protect your noggin.