Sunscreen 101: How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for Your Skin

As we start to spend more time out­side, it’s more impor­tant than ever to apply sun­screen dai­ly to avoid skin dam­age. Sun­screen is not a one size fits all prod­uct, everyone’s skin type is dif­fer­ent and has unique needs. Below we break down which prod­ucts and ingre­di­ents you should look for when choos­ing your next sunscreen. 

Sen­si­tive skin

If you have sen­si­tive skin, you may have noticed that your skin becomes eas­i­ly irri­tat­ed by many prod­ucts, often result­ing in dry patch­es, burn­ing or sting­ing sen­sa­tions, break­outs or red­ness. If you have sen­si­tive skin, avoid fra­granced sun­screens to pre­vent poten­tial aller­gic reac­tions. Make sure the sun­screen is labeled fra­grance-free rather than unscent­ed. Unscent­ed prod­ucts can still con­tain a fra­grance in order to neu­tral­ize the smell of its ingre­di­ents. Fra­grance-free sun­screens offer the same amount of sun pro­tec­tion as oth­er sun­screens and won’t irri­tate your skin. 

You might also con­sid­er sun­screens with main­ly phys­i­cal block­ers such as zinc or tita­ni­um. Just like jew­el­ry made from tita­ni­um, tita­ni­um sun­screens rarely cause aller­gies and are best for those with skin sensitivity. 

Oily, acne-prone skin

Those with oily or acne-prone skin often dis­like wear­ing sun­screen because of the oily residue that some leave behind. To avoid this, pick sun­screens that have non-come­do­genic ingre­di­ents such as ben­zoyl per­ox­ide, clay or retinol. These non-come­do­genic ingre­di­ents won’t clog your pores or cause break­outs as many of them repair the skin upon appli­ca­tion. Avoid sun­screens that have added oils such as avo­ca­do oil, coconut oil or shea but­ter as these will increase oil pro­duc­tion which can lead to break­outs and blocked pores. 

All skin types

Try to lim­it your time out­side when the sun’s rays are the strongest, typ­i­cal­ly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m1 regard­less of your skin type. Make sure your select­ed sun­screen is labeled broad-spec­trum, so it pro­tects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are asso­ci­at­ed with caus­ing the skin to age, while UVB rays are com­mon­ly linked to sun­burns. It is rec­om­mend­ed that you wear an SPF of at least 30 when you are out­side – even on a cloudy day. 

Sun­screen reminders: 

  • Check the expi­ra­tion date – Old sun­screen won’t be effec­tive at block­ing the sun’s rays and expired ingre­di­ents could irri­tate your skin. 
  • Remem­ber reap­pli­ca­tion – Sun­screen should be reap­plied every two hours due to sweat­ing, expo­sure to water and/​or the sun break­ing down the ingre­di­ents and weak­en­ing its effec­tive­ness over time. Apply water­proof sun­screen to extend the product’s effec­tive­ness while par­tic­i­pat­ing in water-based activities. 
  • Tim­ing is key – Apply sun­screen 15 min­utes before you plan to go out­doors. This gives the prod­uct time to absorb into your skin and pro­vide ample sun protection. 
  • Apply prop­er­ly – Sun­screen should be applied to every part of the body that is exposed to the sun. Research has shown that one ounce of sun­screen cov­ers the aver­age person’s body prop­er­ly2. Addi­tion­al­ly, don’t for­get to apply sun­screen to your ears and the tops of your feet and hands. 
  • Puck­er up – Skin can­cer can affect all dif­fer­ent areas of your body, includ­ing your lips. Apply lip balm con­tain­ing SPF to your lips before head­ing outside. 

To learn more about what sun­screen suits your skin type and best appli­ca­tion meth­ods, sched­ule an appoint­ment with a der­ma­tol­o­gist online or by call­ing your pre­ferred location. 

1Cleve­land Clin­ic. (2019, Octo­ber 10). In Sun Dam­age: Pro­tect­ing Your­self. Retrieved from https://​my​.cleve​land​clin​ic​.org/​h​e​a​l​t​h​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​5​2​4​0​-​s​u​n​-​d​a​m​a​g​e​-​p​r​o​t​e​c​t​i​n​g​-​y​o​u​rself

2SUN­SCREEN FAQS. (n.d.). In Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Der­ma­tol­ogy Asso­ci­a­tion. Retrieved from https://​www​.aad​.org/​p​u​b​l​i​c/eve…,often%20should%20I%20apply%20it%3F&text=Apply%20enough%20sunscreen

  • My goal is to combine the latest science, research and technology to provide the most comprehensive care for patients. I believe patient education is crucial and strive to empower patients to be active participants in managing their skin health.