ABC’s of: Sunscreen

{Applying sunscreen can be sexy business. Images from Allure}


Prevent, protect. Liberally applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains both UVA and UVB protection every day is the single most important thing you can do to prevent sun damage and skin cancer. Period. End of story. Finito. {Keep reading though}.

The freshest. We all have leftover tubes of sunscreen from last summer. While it’s tempting to use them you want to start fresh each summer. New summer new bottle. The active ingredients in sunscreens can lose their potency, so check the expiration date.

Don’t stop till you get enough. Sunscreen is wonderful stuff. It allows us to be outside for extended periods of time and remain protected. However, don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. People tend to think a higher number of SPF means longer coverage. No matter the number you have picked, you have to reapply generously (one shot glass worth to your body and a nickel-size amount to your face and neck) every 90 minutes. So reach for the largest size of sunscreen available. Make use of your cell phone and set yourself an alarm to remind you when it’s time to reapply-and yes that is what I do when I’m at the beach. Nerd alert!

Aim high. SPF 30 or higher is the recommended minimum daily amount whether you’re going to be actively outside or not. People end up applying less than the recommended amount (see above) and end up with an SPF of 15 instead.

Fuzzy math. Layering an SPF 15 over an SPF 30 does not get you the protection of an SPF 45. Stick to wearing the right amount of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and reapply regularly for optimum protection.

Mist mishaps. Spray-on sunscreens are fantastic. They’re quick, cover large areas and couldn’t be easier to apply. With a few caveats. A light mist is not what you want. You need to spray enough so that the product is a visible liquid on your skin to really get the SPF indicated on the can. Once you have done that you need to rub it in for even coverage.

Now you see it now you don’t. I don’t want to put the duh in dumb here but perspiration and a dip in the ocean or pool not only removes your sunscreen, but toweling off and sand also scrub it off. Reapply after any of the aforementioned activities. Slather, repeat. That’s your new mantra.

Go nude. The best way to apply sunscreen is to apply it before you ever even get dressed. If you try and put it on while wearing your suit or clothes you are more likely to miss a spot. Give yourself time before heading outside, sunscreen needs at least 20 minutes to sink in otherwise it  will be like sitting in the sun unprotected for almost half an hour. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable.

Makeup mistakes. When I am discussing skincare with my clients and inquire about their daily sunscreen use they are quick to tell me that their makeup contains sunscreen. That’s simply not enough. Don’t think your makeup has you covered and solely rely on it. If your SPF is in your face powder, you would need to apply fourteen times the amount of powder you would normally use. The same goes for foundation—unless you want to slather on seven times as much as you would actually use to even your skin tone.  Hello sexy! Sunscreen layered under your makeup everyday is the only way to ensure best possible protection.

Made in the shade. To really practice smart sun you can’t beat avoiding the sun during peak hours, and protective clothing. You may think the shade of your umbrella or tent is enough to keep you protected. So much so that you may be a little lax on the sunscreen (re)application. No dice. If you can read a book in the shade then UV light is reaching your skin. Shade is great but sunscreen is still imperative.

You’re so sensitive. There are a host of things that can cause photosensitivity. Medications and some food chief among them. Accutane, birth control pills, blood pressure medications and some antibiotics can all cause you irritation and increased sensitivity when you’re exposed to the sun. Read your medications carefully and talk with your health care professional. I love margaritas and Bloody Mary’s but a DD is not the only thing you need to worry about. If you’re outside on the deck playing bartender you want to use caution when it comes to limes and celery. They both contain furocoumarins and the sun reacts with these chemicals and can cause blotchy dark spots that can take months to fade. Make your drinks indoors if possible and wash your hands thoroughly.

Head to toe. Many of you will slather sunscreen on all over but you may forget some important areas. Your scalp is one such area-and you can end up with a painful burn. Mist your part and hairline with a spray sunscreen and all around your head to ensure coverage. Stick sunscreens are also great for your part. Covering up with a sunhat is also a stylish way to stay protected and help protect your face. You also need to ensure that your ears, neck, and the tops of your feet and hands are slathered in sunscreen. Feet are often overlooked-especially after a walk in the surf. Apply from head to toe.

Pucker up. You may not think you have full lips but they get more sun exposure than any other area of your face. They can easily burn if left unprotected or covered in a UV reflective gloss. Protect your pout with a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher and reapply after eating, drinking, and a dip in the water. For more on caring for your lips in the summer read this.

Protect the peepers. The delicate, thin skin around the eyes is one of the first areas that show signs of aging. Some sunscreens can irritate the eyes when applied near them but they still need protection. Try a sunscreen stick or sunscreen made especially for the eye area. Remember, you need to use sunscreen around your eyes even if you are wearing polarized sunglasses. The reflection off the sunglasses can magnify sun exposure. As you may have learned by now, SPF 30 everyday will have you covered.

Make like a Girl Scout. Be prepared! Stow your sunscreen in your purse, car, beach bag, gym bag, makeup bag, bathroom etc. The more available and convenient it is the more likely you are to use it. Next time you’re at the dermatologist or doctor’s office, ask for sunscreen samples as they always have plenty. When you order beauty products online and you can select your free samples choose an SPF product. You may find a new formula favorite.

Do you already follow these directions? What is your favorite sunscreen?

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12 Responses to ABC’s of: Sunscreen

  1. I do follow this routine. You made very good points about foundation and powder that contain SPF. So many women say that their makeup already has an SPF…. I wish everyone could read this. Are you sure you are not a doctor???

  2. Neblina says:

    Hello Breanna,
    Thank you so much for sharing all your tips. But how do you repair the irreparable? Namely, I’ve started to notice that brown spots appear looking like a moustache for the past two summers :/. Have you ever come across women who have experienced that? If so, have they successfully gotten rid of it?
    Been following your blog for some time now… and love your generosity!

    PS: be clement with my English, I am French ;)

  3. Danielle says:

    This is just another example of why BreBeauty has become my bible.

  4. Elaine says:

    This was excellent. I need to be better about my sunscreen!

  5. Elaine says:

    I have a question.. how do you reapply on your face when you have makeup on???

  6. Teri Roughen says:

    Sunscreen is a must. Also, ladies, protect your face with a hat too!! Sunscreen can only do so much and you’ll be glad in your thirties you shaded your face. Also, get your men to wear sunscreen as well. They don’t do it unless we tell them too (for the most part). I’m getting me some of that Nutrogena spray. I love a spray. It’s so easy. Teri

  7. Breanna says:

    @Elaine If you’re outside or at the beach and keeping it simple with your makeup, you can use a latex sponge to reapply your sunscreen. Just dab it carefully all over to ensure even coverage. Or, you can opt for a powder sunscreen like the ones from Peter Thomas Roth or Colorescience. These will keep you matte AND protected! Great question, thanks for asking!

  8. Breanna says:

    @Danielle Aww, you are too sweet! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  9. Breanna says:

    @Neblina Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It is never too early or too late to begin taking better care of our skin. Brown spots are hyper pigmentation and acquired sun damage. The fact that they are around your mouth may also indicate a hormonal link (much like melasma during pregnancy). Whatever the cause, you can lighten them with a Rx hydroquinone, chemical peels (OTC or in-office) or laser treatments. Discuss the best option for you with your dermatologist. There is one big caveat. Sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher is a daily MUST to prevent the damage from reoccurring. Great question Neblina, please let me know how you make out!

  10. Breanna says:

    @Erica Well thank you my dear. No, I’m not a doctor but how fun would that be?! I know my clients are always telling me about their SPF of 8 in their makeup. Homie don’t play that. Now you can refer them to this post!

  11. […] highly recommend it. Sunscreen is a fabulous product, and I break it all down for you here with my ABC’s of: Sunscreen, but nothing beats common sense. Avoid the sun during peak hours whenever possible, and cover up […]

  12. […] How: Apply sunscreen to your face and body before getting dressed. You need a teaspoon for your face and a shot glass size amount for your body. Use a sunscreen that is appropriate to your skin type and needs and that you will actually enjoy using. Reapply throughout the day with a sunscreen spray for your body and a sunscreen powder for your face. For more on sunscreen, check out my ABC’s of: Sunscreen. […]

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