Sunscreen is an important part of anti-aging and skin cancer prevention. Since your face receives more sun exposure than anywhere else on your body, it’s vital to apply sunscreen here every time you go outside. Follow these tips to select and apply the best sunscreen for maximum protection.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen
The American Cancer Society recommends selecting sunscreen with the following characteristics:
- Broad-spectrum protection: This means the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. While all sunscreen products focus on UVB rays—the leading cause of sunburn and skin cancer—UVA rays also cause premature aging and contribute to skin cancer. Broad-spectrum coverage gives you all the protection you need.
- SPF 30 or higher: The sun protection factor (SPF) indicates the level of coverage a sunscreen provides. SPF 30 filters out 97 percent of UVB rays. For comparison, SPF 15 filters out 93 percent, and SPF 100 filters out 99 percent.
- Zinc oxide: This ingredient provides broad-spectrum protection without leaving a white or grey film the way titanium dioxide does. Therefore, zinc oxide-based sunscreens are ideal for the face.
- Non-greasy formula: Many sunscreen products are specially formulated for the face with a lightweight feel and non-greasy finish that won’t clog your pores. Any product marketed for acne-prone or sensitive skin should fit the bill.
Applying Sunscreen to Your Face
Are you preparing to go for a walk, take a bike ride, or have a family picnic? Begin applying sunscreen 30 minutes before you head out. Here are the steps to follow:
- Wash your face. For maximum protection, sunscreen should be applied directly to the skin. Wash using your favorite facial cleanser to remove makeup and oil that could prevent the sunscreen from sticking properly. Then, pat your skin dry.
- Apply a generous amount of sunscreen. As a rule of thumb, you need about a nickel-sized dollop for your face.
- Cover your neck and upper chest as well. A common mistake is to apply sunscreen to the forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin, but forget other sensitive areas. Give attention to all areas of exposed skin, including the front and back of your neck, upper chest, upper back, and shoulders. The tops of the ears are also easy to forget, so don’t miss this area!
- Rub excess sunscreen onto the backs of your hands. This is another commonly forgotten spot. People often wash up after applying sunscreen, but this leaves the backs of the hands and fingers vulnerable to sun damage. A better option is to simply wipe the palms of your hands on a paper towel.
- Apply makeup over the sunscreen. If you normally wear moisturizer, foundation, blush, and other makeup, you may apply it now.