5 great sunscreens…just in time for summer!
words + photo by Caylin Harris
Lounging by the pool, reading on the beach, or working on the water, any time you’re outside this season (and to be honest every season) sunscreen should be your constant companion. When used correctly, sunscreen works to not only protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun, but helps prevent signs of aging like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. We spoke with Jolene Edgar, Rhode Island-based beauty writer for Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Health, about the finer points of this skin saver.
The Coastal Table (TCT): What SPF would you recommend as a minimum for the face and body?
Jolene Edgar (JE): Based on hundreds of conversations with dermatologists, I say, the higher the SPF, the better. The logic here: you’re only getting the SPF number on the bottle if you apply the dose used during lab testing. Which is one full ounce, or the equivalent of a shot glass full. Studies show that most people apply half or a quarter of that recommended amount, which means they're only getting a fraction of the level of protection they think they are. A higher SPF is always better because it helps compensate for us probably not applying as much as we should.
TCT: How often should we apply?
JE: Apply one full ounce 15 minutes before heading out then reapply at least every two hours, or immediately after swimming/sweating. And remember sunscreen alone is not enough: rash guards, sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats, and shade are equally important parts of one's sun protection plan.
TCT: What should you look for when you’re purchasing a suncreen?
JE: At a minimum, a good sunscreen should offer broad-spectrum protection, guarding against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. And it should come from a reputable brand. This doesn't mean it has to be pricey. Dermatologists love Neutrogena sunscreens and they're affordable and easy to find. Beyond that, quality sunscreens feel good on your skin, which is critical, because if you don't like the way it feels on your skin, you're not going to apply and re-apply as you should. Quality can also reflect added ingredients like chemicals that help strengthen or prolong the efficacy of the UV filters so they don't break down as quickly in the sun. This, to me, is worth paying more for.
TCT: Are there ingredients you should avoid in sunscreen?
JE: Honestly, if you're buying from a reputable company, there are no questionable UV-filtering ingredients to worry about. If you're sensitive or applying to babies/kids, go for a straight mineral sunscreen (with only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide), as they tend to be less irksome. You can choose to avoid parabens and fragrance, especially if you're sensitive. Bottom line: sunscreen is not toxic, but the sun actually is.
TCT: What ingredients should you look for?
JE: You can either go for a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (15 to 20% total is ideal) or go for a sunscreen with a mix of chemical and mineral filters. I like mineral blocks for my kids and myself, but I don't use them exclusively. I've found it hard to go straight mineral if you need water-resistance, which we definitely need in the summer. I also love sunscreen with added antioxidants, which serve to bolster the formula's sun-protective properties. And, again, companies like Neutrogena and La Roche Posay add special (usually patented) complexes to help keep the filters active longer.
TCT: What are five of your favorite brands of sunscreen?
JE: La Roche Posay Anthelios (all) are a perennial dermatologist favorite. They make formulas for all skin types/issues/sensitivities that feel amazing on, wear well with makeup, and provide excellent protection.
Blue Lizard: For the same reasons as La Roche Posay. I've trusted this brand to protect my kids skin since they were six months old. They've never had sunburn. The baby/sensitive formulas are straight mineral; the sport is a blend of mineral/chemical and really stays put in the pool or ocean. The mineral especially goes on very white, but we’re more than okay with that because of the consistent protection it affords. I should add: both of my kids have extremely sensitive skin, and this has never irritated them.
Cotz: These are mineral sunscreens, some straight zinc, some a blend of zinc and titanium that give me the solid, reliable protection I need for a day outside but they don't look ghostly on my skin. And I can reapply all day long without ever feeling greasy or suffocated.
Elta MD UC Clear SPF46: Another one dermatologists praise time and time again. It contains 9% transparent zinc plus antioxidants and skin-soothing niacinamide and hydrating hyaluronic acid. This is the sunscreen for people who swear they can't wear sunscreen. Great for rosacea- and acne-prone skin types. It also comes tinted and makes a great foundation stand-in during summer.
Farmacy Green Screen: This is my go-to when I don't need super-intense protection, because I love the feel of the formula. It's a blend of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, but only for a total of 7 or 8%, so I wouldn't rely on this alone for a summer day at the pool or beach. But it’s a true stand-alone broad-spectrum sunscreen and I like it way better than any moisturizer with SPF I've tried. It feels great, never pills, has added antioxidants, blends beautifully, wears well with makeup, gives skin a pretty sheen, and has a very clean formula.
note: This information might not apply to all skin types. If you have specific concerns, please consult your physician or dermatologist.