4 Common Sunscreen Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
The mistake: Not wearing sun-protective gear
“Even though summer weather requires less clothing, smart accessories are key to defending your skin against the sun,” says New York City dermatologist Doris Day, MD, who recommends a wide-brimmed hat, oversize sunglasses, and protective swimsuits and rash guards.
Darker, thickly woven fabrics like polyester offer more protection than lighter, looser fabrics (bleached cotton, for example). Many companies also make UV-absorbing pieces labeled with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), which tells how well the garment protects against the sun (J.Crew and Coolibar have cute options that are Skin Cancer Foundation–approved).
Our fave new find: a neckerchief from Callidae ($25; callidae.com), which is made of cool jersey and protects your delicate, crepe-prone décolletage.
The mistake: Not using a high enough SPF
SPF—sun protection factor—refers to a product’s ability to guard skin from the rays. While SPF 50 blocks about 98 percent of harmful UVB rays, says New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, the jury is out on whether that percentage would increase with a higher SPF.
Recently, Johnson & Johnson funded a study testing SPF 50 on one side of participants’ faces and SPF 100 on the other. After spending around six hours in the sun, 55 percent of participants had more sunburn on the SPF 50 side. “People apply less product than in the studies, so divide the number on the label in two—that’s the SPF you’re actually getting,” says Dr. Engelman. “Apply liberally and often—the higher the SPF, the better.”
The mistake: Missing sneaky spots
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends thoroughly slathering on at least one ounce (a hefty palmful) of broad-spectrum sunscreen on all exposed areas. “It’s those sneaky spots like the hairline, middle part of the scalp, back, sides of the neck, tops of the ears, and around straps of clothing where I see my patients getting sun damage,” says Dr. Day. In addition to a healthy base coat of sunscreen, use SPF sticks as an insurance policy. Carrying a stick in your bag allows for easy touch-ups—which you should do every two hours to play it safe.
We like: Coppertone Defend & Care Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 ($6; amazon.com), Ocean Potion Dab-On Spot Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen ($4; walmart.com), and Shiseido Clear Stick UV Protector WetForce SPF 50+ ($28; sephora.com).
The mistake: Not layering
“While you shouldn’t rely on makeup with sunscreen as your primary source of protection, wearing it on top of your base application can act as an added shield,” says Dr. Engelman. Another easy way to sneak more protection into your routine: After applying your face sunscreen, smooth on a makeup primer such as Coola ($42; dermstore.com), which contains antioxidants and broad-spectrum SPF 30. Other options: Carry a cushion compact that offers coverage and SPF—the one from Innisfree has SPF 50+. For the body, Jergens’ gradual self-tanner ($9; amazon.com) also protects skin. To help prevent age spots, slick on the SPF-laced Jane Iredale hand cream ($29; dermstore.com). Finally, protect lips with Sun Bum, which is available in four pretty shades.