A woman swipes sunscreen on her cheekbone.

Skin Health

Should You Wear Sunscreen Every Day? Tips to Make Sunscreen a Daily Habit

by Anubha Charan
April 18, 2024

Welcome, sun-seekers and shade-dwellers alike, it's time to talk about sunscreen! Sunscreen is more than just a bottle in your beach bag — it's your frontline defense against sun damage. But should you wear sunscreen every day? Let's dive in and discover why SPF should be your skin's best friend year-round and how to include sunscreen in your daily skincare routine.

How To Incorporate Sunscreen Into Your Daily Skincare Routine

Unless you roll out of bed and simply throw on some clothes before heading out the door (no judgment), your morning routine probably looks like this: You crawl out of your cozy bed after hitting snooze a couple of times. A nice warm shower wakes you up. You use a gentle cleanser to wash your face and then follow up with a moisturizer for your skin type.

Depending on the level of your skincare routine, you might also smooth on an eye cream, dab on some toner and apply serum. Then, you do your hair and makeup (or not, your call) and brush your teeth. One last oh-so-big smile in the mirror before you grab your bag and a breakfast bar and enter the world, ready to tackle whatever life throws at you. Again.

Hold up. You missed something. We'll give you one guess.

Yes, you forgot to apply sunscreen.

Rewind to the post-moisturizer (or serum) moment. Pause. Here's where you should lovingly massage a nickel-sized dollop of sunscreen onto your radiant skin. Remember, the sun doesn't take a day off, so your sunscreen shouldn't either.

Pro Tips for Daily Sunscreen Use

OK, but how can you ensure that sunscreen remains top of mind? Here are a few easy tips from the experts:

Make It Part of Your Skincare Routine

Like cleansing and moisturizing, make applying sunscreen a nonnegotiable part of your daily skincare regimen. Apply it after the final step in your skincare routine but before makeup.

Set Daily Reminders

Program an alert on your phone as a daily nudge to apply sunscreen. If visible reminders work better for you, place a sticky note on your mirror or desk for a visual prompt.

Pair It With an Established Habit

Keep sunscreen next to your toothbrush, coffee machine or Fido's leash to make it part of your morning ritual. This creates a mental link, strengthening the practice over time.

Carry a Travel-Sized Sunscreen

Keep a small, easily portable sunscreen tube in your bag so you're always prepared with a backup.

Benefits of Sunscreen: Why Should You Wear Sunscreen Every Day?

Sunscreen isn't just for days at the beach or summer cookouts. It's an everyday essential for protecting your skin's health and maintaining its youthfulness.

To understand why, take a peek at the sun's sneaky side. Sunlight emits both ultraviolet A (UVA) and UVB rays, and, surprisingly, up to 80% of these harmful rays can penetrate through clouds. This means the sun can reach your skin even on gloomy days.

UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin, breaking down collagen and elastin. This eventually leads to early signs of skin aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines. On the other hand, UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn and are a significant risk factor for skin cancer.

What you may not know is that you don't only need sunscreen outdoors — UVA rays also affect your skin indoors. More than 50% of these rays can pass through glass, exposing your skin to harm even while you're driving, working in an office or sitting near a window at home. This exposure adds up over time and can cause skin issues like hyperpigmentation and sunspots. Cumulative exposure also increases your skin cancer risk.

How To Choose the Right Sunscreen

The golden rule of venturing into the world of sun protection is to select a sunscreen that aligns with your specific needs. This guide will help you browse smart.

Understand Sunscreen Formulas

Sunscreen comes in two main formulations: chemical and physical.

Chemical sunscreens contain organic (carbon-based) compounds, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone and homosalate. These ingredients convert UV rays into a small amount of heat, which is then released from the skin. Chemical sunscreens are often more lightweight and spread more easily, making them suitable for daily use under makeup.

Physical (mineral) sunscreens contain inorganic compounds like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They act as a physical barrier, reflecting and scattering UV radiation away from the skin. Physical sunscreens are less likely to cause irritation since they don't absorb as deeply into the skin. So, they're ideal if you have sensitive skin, acne or rosacea.

Go for Broad-Spectrum Protection

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are formulated to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Dermatologists recommend selecting a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, which filters out about 97% of UVB radiation. If you have little ones at home, fast-drying, broad-spectrum spray formulas can make a great kid's sunscreen.

Use Water-Resistant Sunscreen on Active Days

When it comes to the best sunscreen for playing sports or other outdoor activities, opt for a water-resistant sunscreen. These sunscreens offer up to 80 minutes of protection while swimming or sweating. But you'll need to reapply after this time runs out — especially after toweling off.

Select Sunscreen for Your Skin Type

Choosing the right sunscreen is also about understanding your skin type. For oily or acne-prone skin, non-comedogenic sunscreens are a good choice, as they won't clog pores. If you have oily skin and want to reduce shine, consider using an oil-free sunscreen with a matte finish. Gel-based sunscreens also offer a lightweight, nongreasy application.

If you have dry skin, you might benefit from a cream-based sunscreen that includes moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin or ceramides. If you have sensitive skin, look for mineral sunscreens labeled "fragrance-free" and "hypoallergenic" to reduce the risk of irritation.

Consider Sunscreen for Face vs. Sunscreen for Body

Try using two types of sunscreen: one formulated for your face and another designed for your body. Facial skin is thinner and more sensitive to acne, irritation and premature aging. So, give it some TLC with a lighter, less oily formula that includes anti-aging or moisturizing properties. Body sunscreens are designed for broader coverage and typically have a more robust formula.

How to Apply Sunscreen Properly

It's essential to apply sunscreen the right way to properly protect your skin. Apply sunscreen to dry skin at least 15 minutes before you head outdoors. This gives it enough time to form a protective barrier on your skin. You should use about 1 ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) for your entire body.

Make sure to apply sunscreen thoroughly on all exposed areas, including the neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs. If you can't reach places like your back, ask someone for help or use a spray sunscreen for easier application.

Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours or more often if you're swimming, sweating or drying off with a towel.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

To safeguard your skin from the sun's damaging rays, avoid these common application mistakes:

Not Applying Enough

Many people don't use enough sunscreen. Remember, most adults need about 1 ounce for full coverage.

Missing Areas

Commonly overlooked areas include the tops of the ears, hairline and tops of the hands and feet. Ensure these are well covered.

Not Reapplying

Remember: Reapply at least every two hours or sooner if you're swimming or sweating.

Using Expired Sunscreen

Outdated sunscreen may not be as effective. Always check the expiration date, and replace it when necessary.

Pop quiz: What are you going to do tomorrow after washing your face and putting on moisturizer? Hint: The answer is apply sunscreen. If you think you might forget, place your sunscreen near your toothbrush to help jog your memory.


FAQ

What SPF level should I choose for sunscreen?

Choosing the right sun protection factor (SPF) in your sunscreen depends on your skin type and how much sun exposure you anticipate. For most people, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is suitable. However, if you have lighter skin or are prone to sunburn, it's better to use a sunscreen with SPF 50 for greater protection.

Is sunscreen safe?

Sunscreen is an essential tool for keeping your skin healthy. It protects against damaging UV rays that can lead to premature aging and a higher risk of skin cancer. Therefore, using sunscreen is a safe and vital component of skincare.

Is SPF 30 enough?

SPF 30 sunscreen is usually sufficient for everyday use, as it blocks about 97% of UVB rays. However, if you're going to be outside for a long time or anticipate spending time in direct sunlight during peak hours, using a sunscreen with a higher SPF can provide additional protection.

How often should you reapply sunscreen?

Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. If you're swimming, sweating or toweling off, you'll need to reapply more often. A higher SPF doesn't mean you can slack on reapplying — the same two-hour rule applies whether you use SPF 30 or 50.

How long is sunscreen good for?

This answer can vary, so always check the expiration date on the sunscreen bottle. Using sunscreen past its prime can lead to inadequate UV protection. To ensure your sunscreen maintains its effectiveness, store it in a cool, dry location.



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