Summertime Skincare: What is the Best Sunscreen to Use?

Women with hat on the beach

You know the drill. What is the best sunscreen to use when summer weather arrives?  Switch up your skincare routine to make sure you are protecting your skin from the intense sunlight. Without the right protection, you are at risk for skin cancer and premature aging.

With so many different types of sunscreens available these days, how do you know which one is right for you?

Before you fill your shopping cart, it may help to understand the two main types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Your the best sunscreen to use may depend on your skin type and the activities you have planned.

Chemical Sunscreens

Ingredients in chemical sunscreens (typically oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone) work by creating a chemical reaction under the skin that absorbs UV rays, changing them into heat, and then releasing them from the skin. They are generally more lightweight, can be worn well underneath makeup, usually take up to 30 minutes to begin working and typically do not protect against both UVA and UVB rays simultaneously. In recent years there have been questions about whether chemical sunscreens are linked to hormone disruption.

Physical Block or Mineral

A physical sunscreen, as the name suggests, creates a physical barrier that reflects UV rays away from your skin rather than absorbing them. Physical sunscreens contain only two minerals: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (or both). They are less likely to cause irritation because they sit on the surface of the skin (although they tend to produce a white cast or tint on darker skin tones), and are broad-spectrum so they have the ability to protect against UVA and UVB rays simultaneously.

Which Sunscreen Should You Choose?

We like to think the right sunscreen is the one you’ll actually apply daily — especially to your face and neck. Experimenting with what works well with your skin type is important as well. But there will always be pros and cons to both types of sunscreens.

Physical sunscreens, for example, are better for sensitive skin but rub or sweat off more easily. Still, they can work well for long, intense sun exposure — such as a day at the beach — because they begin working immediately and are broad-spectrum. In contrast, chemical sunscreens won’t rub off easily, have a more smooth application, are more water-resistant, and do not cause a white chalky sheen. However, they do irritate the eyes more, can be comedogenic, and are generally not eco-friendly or “reef safe.”

There is much debate in the skincare world about which sunscreen is most effective. Effective options are available in both categories, and with continuing advances in formula technology, many of the cons are becoming less concerning (such as the white cast produced by physical block sunscreens). And if you are interested in additional protection, look for ultraviolet protection fabric (UPF) clothing. UPF clothing helps to protect your shoulders, arms, and chest, which typically get the most intense sun exposure.
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Rebecca Artz

Rebecca Artz lives in Chicago, is currently a digital product manager for a publishing company based in Boston, and is a freelance contributor to Health Food Radar. She spends her free time cooking, reading, kickboxing and is endlessly entertained by her Siamese kitten, Luna.

© 2021 Health Food Radar, Inc. Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Any information or products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information provided by this website or this company is not substitute for individual medical advice.