What Sunscreen Is Best after Summer?
I received a really important and straightforward question about post-summer sun protection. One of my blog readers sent it in as a comment on my October 15th post Best Procedures To Brighten Your Complexion Fast. It's such a good question and I know that many of you share the concern because I'm asked it so many times during the non-summer seasons. The answer is important, and fundamental to the success of your anti-aging and preventative skin care. Dr Bailey, What would you say sunscreen needs are after such (laser and light) procedures now that summer is over? I see many products including moisturizers, primers, and foundations with sunscreen ingredients in them. I think they’re all chemical. If standalone sunscreen is physical (with titanium and zinc), can it be used in conjunction with these other products? I use tretinoin, acids, and have done some of the above mentioned (anti-aging laser and light) procedures (will do them in the future too), so I wonder if it’s safe enough to combine different sun protection ingredients, and if they don’t interfere with each other as far as sun protection goes. Thank you, Irena Dear Irena, All year long, the UVA rays shine down from the sun with the same intensity that they have in summer! These UVA rays are very powerful rays that can cause wrinkles and skin thinning, so you can't slack off on your sun protection. The UVA rays also cause age spots and uneven skin pigmentation, and play a role in skin cancer formation. You need a sunscreen labeled "broad spectrum" to block UVA rays. Remember, SPF tells you about UVB protection, not UVA. That labeling will be changing in the future, but for now, look for products labeled broad spectrum. Remember too, that not all products labeled broad spectrum perform equally well. I trust the UVA protection that you get from mineral zinc oxide the most, which is the type of sunscreen that I always recommend. It's a year-round sunscreen must, in my opinion! Zinc oxide is a stable ingredient and has now been formulated into beautiful and elegant products that are easy to use; they are perfect for sensitive skin or post-treatment skin since they are non-irritating. The zinc oxide ideally should be listed at 5% or greater concentration in the product. How do you find the perfect zinc oxide sunscreen for your skin type, and where can you learn more about post-summer sun risks? Here are 3 great resources that I have for you. First, to help you pick the right product for your skin type, check out my Sunscreen Comparison Chart. There are the zinc oxide products I use in my practice. I searched long and hard for perfect zinc oxide sunscreens and these are my favorites. Second, I've written a post explaining UVA and post-summer sun. In the post, I give you tips for sun protection and for boosting the antioxidant reserve of your skin for optimal skin health. Read that post, which is titled Do You Need A Sunscreen in the Winter, Or In The Morning, or After 4pm? Third, simplify your skin care routine by focusing on the quality of your sun protection product. In general, most of the "it's really a makeup or a moisturizer, but we added SPF so people would buy it" products are inferior sunscreens in my opinion. Plus, remember, you don't get to add SPF values when you use multiple products with SPF numbers on the labels. That means that two SPF 15 products don't make SPF 30! You still want to have a product with 5% or more zinc oxide on your skin everyday for broad spectrum protection. You can generally combine sunscreen ingredients without much of a problem, but you'll be putting more chemical ingredients on your skin for no real additive benefit, and some of these chemicals can be irritating. I'd instead find a really great zinc oxide sunscreen that also doubles as a primer, moisturizer, or makeup. The one absolute best product in this regard is the Suntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream. Tricia, the founder of Suntegrity, developed her product line to be the best natural zinc oxide sunscreens (her mother had melanoma and she founded her company to honor her mother's memory). She then went on to make a cosmetically elegant BB Cream that has the most lovely makeup and moisturizing properties too. It's perfect for sensitive, post-procedure skin, it's beautiful on everyone's skin and it's deeply hydrating.
Irena, thanks for sending me such an important and straightforward question. We all need to remember that the softer feeling post-summer sun is NOT harmless for our skin; we need daily sun protection all year long to prevent the unwanted consequences of sun damage.
Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist Disclaimer: Please realize that availing yourself of the opportunity to submit and receive answers to your questions from Dr. Bailey does not confer a doctor/patient relationship with Dr. Bailey. The information provided by Dr. Bailey is general health information inspired by your question. It should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem (and is not an extension of the care Dr. Bailey has provided in her office for existing patients of her practice). Never ignore your own doctor’s advice because of something you read here; this information is for general informational purpose only.