Update your sun strategies with the fuss-free formulas, no-fail application tricks, and smart tech updates derms swear by. Safest summer yet? You bet!
Good news first: Summer is here, and those hopes of reading on the beach and snagging a patio table at that restaurant you love are less of a daydream. The but? Long stints in the sun lead to wrinkles, dark spots and, worse, skin cancer. Don’t stress just yet; you can still enjoy the great outdoors this season. By taking a multitactical approach that includes not only SPF but also modern technology (such as UV trackers) and products that enhance skin’s ability to repair itself, you can greatly minimize your risk of skin damage and premature aging. Max out your coverage with these next-level strategies.
Get your daily dose
You know the drill—slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day, rain or shine. But knowing what is best doesn’t always mean you’ll do it. A recent study by the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that only 30 percent of women regularly apply sunscreen to their face and other exposed areas. “You don’t have to be on the beach to soak up the sun,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “The short spurts of exposure you get from commuting to work or walking to lunch add up over time.” To the rescue: new ’screens with weightless formulas and sheer textures. Try a multitasking primer with SPF, like Coola Daydream SPF 30 Mineral Makeup Primer, which offers undetectable protection under foundation while blurring fine lines.
Create a summer (sunscreen) wardrobe
“Aside from your daily sunscreen, it’s important to apply formulas that are made to measure up to the different activities in which you get direct sunlight,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. “Just as your bikini isn’t suitable for playing tennis, your beach block isn’t going to hold up on the court.” When you need a product that stays put through sweat and movement, our experts recommend a solid sport stick: The dense formula won’t slip off or drip into eyes, says Shirley Chi, MD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles. Neutrogena CoolDry Sport Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ whisks away sweat to keep you cool while you work out.
Beach friendly spray
Headed to the beach? Aerosol formulas are your best bet. Quick absorbing and sheer, Alba Very Emollient Mineral Spray SPF 35 doesn’t leave skin sticky, pasty, or sandy.
Swim approved block
For doing laps at the pool, choose formulas that won’t wash away, such as Australian Gold X-Treme Sport Spray Gel SPF 50—it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Avoid high-shine times
Track your local UV forecast with apps like SunZapp ($2; iTunes and Google Play), which also alerts you when you need to reapply sunscreen. When the numbers are high (a 6 or more on the UV Index Scale), meaning the sun is strongest, minimize time spent in direct sunlight and watch out for reflective surfaces, like sand and water.
Think more is more
There is no question that when used correctly, sunscreen works. Thing is, a product’s SPF, or sun protection factor, depends on the amount of product applied. “If you cover from head to toe with just a few squirts, you’re receiving only a fraction of the number listed on the bottle and increasing your risk of a burn,” says Dr. Engelman. It takes at least 1 ounce—that’s an entire handful—of lotion to properly cover the whole body. Squeeze out a teaspoon at a time to slather over each body part, including your face. If you’re using a spray, move the bottle back and forth no more than 2 inches away from your body until your skin has a glossy finish. Then—this is key—rub it in. Finally, when you think you’ve put on enough, add another layer, and remember to reapply every two hours (more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating).
Add clothing insurance
Think sun-protective clothing always looks like something only a safari ranger would wear? Not anymore: Style-conscious brands like Mott 50 and Cynthia Rowley now offer chic takes on protective gear—everything from wide-brimmed hats to breezy tunics. Look for items labeled UPF (ultraviolet protective factor) 50 or higher, which indicates that fabrics have been designed and chemically treated to effectively block ultraviolet radiation. Consider it sun leisure. Not in the mood to buy? Rely on dark colors and tightly woven fabrics with little or no stretch.
Boost your skin's defenses
Quick refresher: “UV exposure leads to the formation of destructive chemical compounds known as free radicals,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “That ultimately brings on wrinkling and crepey skin.” Since some UV rays manage to get through even the highest SPF, derms suggest layering sunscreen over a serum containing antioxidants such as vitamin C and ferulic acid to neutralize free radicals and mitigate damage. Find them in Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster.
Load up on vitamins
Dietary antioxidants, like Heliocare Antioxidant Formula Supplements, are also beneficial. “There’s evidence that the vitamin rich fern extract bolsters the body’s ability to fight off free radicals,” says Dr. Zeichner, who suggests taking one an hour prior to heading out for a long day in the sun.
Score extra protection with cosmetics
It used to be that you couldn’t rely on makeup to properly shield you from the punishing rays, but today many products are made with micronized mineral blocks, like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, to ensure immediate and complete coverage. “These UV filters create a physical barrier on skin that reflects light,” says Dr. Tanzi. For a base that doubles as sunscreen, go for a tinted moisturizer with SPF. Try Dr. Dennis Gross Instant Radiance Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 40 ($42; drdennisgross.com). Next, dust on shine and top up protection with a mineral powder, like It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Airbrush Perfecting Powder SPF 50 ($35; ulta.com). Finish with a sun-shielding eye shadow and lip color. We like BareMinerals 5-in-1 BB Cream Eyeshadow Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($19; sephora.com) and Colorescience Sunforgettable Lip Shine with SPF 35.
The vitamin D dilemma
It seems that every few months, we hear something different about vitamin D and the sun. What’s all the chatter? Since we typically don’t absorb enough vitamin D from diet alone, some scientists argue that getting a little sun may be the most beneficial way to increase your intake. However, derms stand their ground: “All unprotected UV exposure—short or long—contributes to the cumulative cellular damage that causes accelerated aging and skin cancer, the most common of all cancers,” says Dr. Engelman. If you’re concerned about getting enough D, ask your doctor about taking supplements.
Track your exposure
Ever notice how hard it is to eyeball the amount of sun you’ve gotten while you’re still outside? That’s where new technologies like the My UV Patch by La Roche-Posay (free; laroche-posay.us) come in. The small, stretchable sensor adheres to your body like a sticker for up to five days and, based on your skin tone, measures the varying levels of sun exposure you’ve had; get updates on the My UV Patch app. “Similar to exercising, when you track your habits and receive personalized feedback, you’re more likely to see results,” says Alysa Herman, MD, a dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon in Miami.