spf 101

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend! To me, this long weekend signifies the unofficial start to summer. Early summer means barbeques, picnics, beach trips, and plenty of time in the sun. In preparation for the surge in outdoor time, I have a little anecdote for you.

Early on in my childhood, my mother emphasized the importance of taking care of your skin. This meant limited direct sun exposure, thoroughly cleansing your face, wearing moisturizer, and most importantly, applying (and re-applying) sunblock daily no matter the duration of time outdoors or type of weather conditions.

Adolescent Prudence had a very laissez-faire mentality when it came to these cardinal rules. I easily spent hours at the beach tanning rotisserie-style with one application of sunblock and oftentimes neglecting my face, and admittedly so, sometimes forgoing SPF all together. In high school, I was on the swim team with practices six days a week, and you guessed it, very little sunblock. If only I could go back in time and shake that silly girl berating, “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?”

(Note: I use “sunscreen” and “sunblock” interchangeably, however, there is a difference between the two.)

Each year, when temperatures rise, the virtue of sun safety is re-emphasized. I hope to provide education that has informed me about sun protection. Taking measures for sun protection has anti-aging benefits but also considers the more risk of skin cancer. Sunblock should be applied despite weather conditions and whether you’re spending time indoors or outdoors (UVA rays can pass through window glass). Snow, sand, and water reflect the sun’s rays, requiring an even more intense need for sunscreen.

Difference between UVA and UVB rays

UVA and UVB rays are two different types of rays emitted by the sun. UVA rays are considered the “aging rays” that causes wrinkles, age spots, and it passes through window glass. UVB rays are considered the “burning rays” that causes sunburns and cannot pass through window glass.

How to choose a sunscreen and how often to reapply

What are important factors to consider when looking for sunscreen? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, choose one that offers 1) broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays) 2) sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and 3) water resistance. SPF only blocks UVB rays and a factor of 30 blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays; a higher SPF will block a higher percentage but none blocks 100 percent of the sun’s rays. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours (and more often with sweating and swimming) no matter the SPF.

Physical versus chemical sunscreen

Physical sunscreen contain the mineral active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that sit on top of the skin to deflect or scatter UV rays. They typically have a white cast when applied. Chemical sunscreen carbon-based active ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, which absorbs the sun rays and chemically alters them into heat that is released from the skin. Unlike physical SPF, with chemical sunscreen there is a wait time of usually 15 minutes for absorption before effectiveness against sun exposure. So which is better? This depends on your skin type, lifestyle, and sensitivity level. There are so many pros and cons to physical and chemical formulas. With continued advancement in science and technology, I believe there are always better formulas coming out in the market that are more effective, undetectable, and comfortable than ever. I recommend that you do your research and speak to your dermatologist.

Needless to say, time has brought some wisdom and I wear sunblock daily. I carry these essentials in my purse and like to try new formulas. These are what works for me (please do your own research). It’s true, mama knows best.


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Shiseido Sun Proctection Eye Cream (SPF 34): The eyes are easily one of the most forgotten areas when it comes to sun protection. I like this one that is a little moisturizing while packing a high punch.

Shisedo Sun Protection Lip Treatment (SPF 35/PA++): Another neglected area is the lips. This one does leave a slight white cast so I am still in search of the perfect lip balm with SPF. If you know of one, please leave your suggestions below in the comments.

Colorscience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen (SPF 50): Since it is recommended to reapply SPF approximately every two hours, this is my solution for re-applying SPF when I already have makeup on. This loose powder formula does not ruin your makeup and is ultra convenient. This physical sunscreen comes in four shades but I find that they have only a faint tint. I use shade Medium.


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Hera UV Mist Cushion Ultra Moisture (SPF 34/PA++): A cushion foundation is a great way to add a little coverage and moisture while receiving the benefits of SPF. Since it is not intended to replace sunscreen, I  still wear SPF underneath it. This cushion compact gives a dewy finish, is easy to reapply, and just looks so appealing with its holographic exterior. Hera also has other types of compacts that are more matte and longer lasting.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen Fluid (SPF 60): This truly is ultra light and has a watery consistency that quickly absorbs into the skin leaving little down time before applying makeup on top (if desired). With a high SPF, broad spectrum, and antioxidant protection, there’s a lot to rave about this one.

Do you have any “mama knows best” moments? What beauty advice or routines have you inherited from your mom? Please share!


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