We're all familiar with the importance of wearing sunscreen in the sun, but what about all of the moments in between?
While sun protection is a year-round essential, we're thinking about it even more now now that we're in the thick of summertime. We had questions around the proper way to incorporate SPF into your routine, so we tapped a few dermatologists to help break down the whats, hows and whys when it comes to wearing sunscreen.
When should I wear sunscreen?
While moderate sun exposure helps your body produce vitamin D — which can also help elevate your mood and support your immune system — sunscreen remains a must, regardless of your daily activities or the UV index, according to the dermatologists Shop TODAY spoke with.
While some countries recommend using sunscreen when the UV index is 3 or higher, Sumayah Jamal, MD-PhD, Director, Skin of Color Speciality Clinic at Schweiger Dermatology Group, says it should be applied regardless of the index reading. Yes, even in the winter, you should wear sunscreen.
"The problem is that if you don't establish some sort of a routine, there's a greater risk of not applying the sunscreen when you actually need it," Jamal says. She generally recommends for her patients to apply a facial sunscreen every day for this reason.
"I especially recommend now, that that sunscreen contain some sort of protection from blue light, the kind of light that you get from computer screens and phones," she adds. "We do not know the long-term effects of this exposure with regards to the skin."
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital's department of dermatology, arecommends using a quarter-sized dollop of sunscreen for your full face.
When it comes to applying sunscreen to your body, you should also consider the UV index rating (especially if it is 3 or higher) and whether you'll be spending prolonged periods of time under the sun. Both Jamal and Zeichner recommend applying one ounce (approximately a shot glass) of sunscreen to your body if in the sun, which Zeichner says is much more than most people typically apply.
"If you’re using sunscreen the right way, you likely will finish the 4 oz. average bottle of sunscreen in one weekend," Zeichner summarizes.
How often should you reapply sunscreen?
The effects of sunscreen only last for about two hours, so regardless of whether you are inside or outside you should still reapply, Zeichner says. The American Academy of Dermatology found that just over 40% of Americans tend to only reapply sunscreen when they get wet, if at all.
"Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or immediately after heavy sweating or swimming," Zeichner emphasizes. "Sunscreen is not impenetrable, so you will still get tan if you are wearing it."
Sun exposure, in addition to sweating and swimming, will degrade sunscreen molecules, making it less effective. Though you can still get a tan while wearing sunscreen, you shouldn't set out to sunbathe.
"Sun-seeking behavior aimed specifically at tanning carries risk for skin cancer and accelerated photo-aging," Jamal tells us.
Top-rated and editor-approved sunscreens
Below, we rounded up some of the Shop TODAY team's favorite broad-spectrum sunscreens. All are SPF 30 or higher, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. Our picks range from facial sunscreens to body sunscreens, so you can browse picks for head-to-toe protection.
This spray sunscreen goes on smooth, leaves you with an amazing glow and is affordable, which is just a few of the reasons assistant partnerships editor Lauren Witonsky loves it. Although it includes bronzing qualities, it doesn't stain your bathing suit or other apparel items such as beach towels or the seats of your car after applying.
Shop TODAY social media page Casey Dawson encourages everyone not to knock grocery store sunscreens, noting that this one from Trader Joe's is "completely sheer" and goes on smooth, lacking the sticky feeling nobody enjoys.
Free of "nasties," according to the brand, this sunscreen is not only good for your face, but it's also good for the environment as well, as it's reef-friendly. With SPF 50 protection, you're guaranteed long-lasting coverage for up to two hours.
This facial sunscreen is already an affordable pick, but Shop TODAY readers can score it at an even cheaper price with the code TODAY30, now through August 4th, to save an extra 30% off.
Commerce editor Evan Siegel believes this sunscreen "lives up to the viral hype" it's been receiving on TikTok. Made with organic ingredients such as rice extract, its most notable feature is that it soothes the skin while also protecting it.
"I stand by Black Girl Sunscreen!! I've been using their classic broad spectrum SPF 30 for almost two years now," associate SEO editor Kamari Stewart said. "It feels light, hydrating, is super easy to blend into the skin and doesn't leave any white cast behind."
Stewart says she also started using the brand's SPF 45 sunscreen gel, which leaves her skin with a matte finish that she can build her makeup on. The sunscreen is also infused with jojoba and avocado oil, which help moisturize the skin.
Not only is the retro packaging "so fun" according to associate commerce editor Emma Stessman, but she admits that she's "never met a sunscreen that smells better than this one," also adding that it's not as overpowering as others. This sunscreen goes on "truly transparent," according to the brand, and promises to have a lightweight foundation.
Associate social media editor Daniella Musacchio loves this affordable pick from Sun Bum that she says smells like summer. "I also have super oily skin but this just absorbs right in," she added. It's also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, according to the brand.
For more coverage than clear or sheer sunscreens, reach for this tinted mineral sunscreen from Bubble Skincare that Dawson adores because it "feels super weightless." While there's no white cast, it is only available in one shade, making it a limited option.
This sunscreen is a favorite of commerce photo editor Vivian Le, who says it doesn't leave a white cast on darker skin tones. Reviewers say it applies smoothly and doesn't take long to absorb. It has an SPF value of 50 but is also a PA++ which provides UVA protection.
Commerce partnerships associate Klay Drageset highly recommends this daily mineral sunscreen from Bliss that offers SPF 30 protection. You and your skin will feel good thanks to this blend that includes no chemicals, all clean ingredients and doesn't leave a white cast.
Whole Foods included "translucent non-nano zinc sunscreens" in its beauty trend forecast for 2022, which is how I (Ortiz) discovered this SPF from Cocokind. I already use Cocokind's products in my skin care routine, so I was excited to try this — and ended up loving it. It doesn't feel too heavy on my skin and leaves me with a dewy complexion. It's not only a broad-spectrum sunscreen, but the brand says it helps protect against blue light and pollution, too.
Shop TODAY page Ava Schwartz adores this over-the-makeup stick option from Shiseido because it can be easily swiped on at the end of your makeup routine, plus it provides SPF 50 protection along with a "little glow."
Shop TODAY production associate Audrey Ekman knows a thing or two about sunscreen, having applied it daily since she was in the 6th grade. She loves this "sun and done'' one from Covey because it "is so lightweight and nice with or without makeup," she said. Plus, it provides SPF 50 protection, where most facial sunscreens provide up to SPF 30 protection.
With niacinamide as one of its key ingredients, this sunscreen from Glow Recipe works to decrease dark spots caused by the sun and helps to brighten your skin to give it that sun-kissed glow. It promises to be lightweight, all while avoiding the stickiness and white cast traditional rub-in sunscreens typically come with.
Through August 5th, Shop TODAY readers can save up to 25% off a full-sized container with the code TODAY25.
When choosing a sunscreen for her face, Stessman always reaches for Supergoop!, but especially their mineral matte version. "It's great for wearing on its own or under makeup and is helpful for oil control, if you get really oily in the summer like I do," she said.
This lightweight foundation is available in two convenient travel sizes, weighing in at 1.5 and 0.68 ounces and is meant for every skin type.
Deputy editorial director Alexandra Deabler says she likes the "matte feel" of this sunscreen. It is oil-free and leaves a natural finish on the skin, according to the brand. Like the Supergoop! option above, it also protects against blue light.
Shop TODAY editorial director Adrianna Brach has been using this sunscreen for over five years and loves its lightweight feel. "It's hydrating and blends in nicely when I wear makeup," she said. "The best part is I don't feel like I'm wearing sunscreen when I use this!"
Does sunscreen have anti-aging benefits?
Sunscreen is also a key player in an effective anti-aging skin care routine, so long as it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF that is 30 or higher.
"SPF doesn't indicate levels of protection from UVA rays, and UVA rays are the bulk of the rays that we're exposed to and responsible for photo-aging, photo-damage and skin cancer," Jamal mentions. "So, what I think is even more important than just looking at the SPF, is making sure that the sunscreen says that it's broad-spectrum. That means that it's blocking both UVA and UVB [rays]."
The SPF in sunscreens protect your skin from UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburns you might develop. UVA rays are also responsible for damaging the skin, accelerating aging, blotchiness and wrinkles, among other things, the experts tell us.
Meet the experts
- Sumayah Jamal is an MD-PhD, Director, Skin of Color Speciality Clinic at Schweiger Dermatology Group, based in New York City.
- Dr. Joshua Zeichner is the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital's department of dermatology in New York City. He previously spoke to Shop TODAY about what to look for when shopping for a face wash for acne and how often you should wash your hair.