Products such as makeup with built-in sunscreen and umbrellas may not deliver the level of protection needed to guard against the sun’s damaging rays and individuals are advised to follow a more comprehensive approach, says an expert from global health system Cleveland Clinic.
“Individuals tend to overestimate the amount of sun protection they are getting from sunscreen-infused makeup products and umbrellas, says dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD.
“In reality, the shade of an umbrella is far less effective than a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF), while SPF in makeup probably isn’t enough to limit the harmful effects of the sun’s skin-burning ultraviolet (UV) rays.”
With regard to umbrellas, Dr. Kassouf says that while any shade is better than no shade, research into beach umbrellas found 78% of users ended up with sunburn after three-and-a-half hours on the beach. For comparison sake, 25% of those using an SPF 100 sunscreen got sunburned in the same timeframe.
In the case of makeup containing sunscreen, Dr. Kassouf points out that skin care companies slather on an extra thick layer of a product when testing for SPF. “In the real world, individuals do not wear such thick layers of makeup, so you’re more than likely not getting the full protection listed on the label,” she says.
This same dynamic takes place with sunscreen, Dr. Kassouf adds, so an effective strategy can be to double up. “Apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and makeup with SPF 30. Together, they’ll add up to the protection you need,” she says.
If a person is using SPF makeup for the convenience of applying fewer products, Dr. Kassouf suggests trying a mineral-based tinted sunblock instead, which she says is one of the best new products for protection against the sun.
“There is some iron oxide added to the sunblock base of zinc and titanium to give it a tan color,” she explains. “This way, you get the broadest spectrum sun protection in a product that can even your skin tone, as well — and it is just one product to reapply.”
5 Tips for applying sunscreen
“It is well known that sun exposure is the top cause of skin cancer, including potentially deadly melanoma,” says Dr. Kassouf. “Sunlight also ages your skin by damaging skin cells, leading to fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration. The primary defense against this damage is to use and regularly reapply a high-SPF factor.”
According to Dr. Kassouf, there are five ways to maximize sunscreen’s efficacy:
- Choose broad-spectrum sunscreen products, which protect against both UVA and UVB rays, the two types of sun rays that cause harm.
- Pick sunscreen products with an SPF of at least 30, but preferably higher for a little extra protection, especially if you’re going to be outside for any extended period.
- Use sunscreen heavily. The most common mistake people make when applying sunscreen is not using enough, says Dr. Kassouf. It should be reapplied about every two hours or more frequently if a person is swimming, sweating or otherwise weakening the previous protective layer.
- Don’t forget to apply to the neck, arms and any other skin exposed to the sun, not just the face.
- Pay attention to the expiration date as sunscreen does not last forever and protection will weaken over time.
“People have many options when it comes to protecting their skin from sun damage, including SPF makeup, umbrellas, sunglasses and special sun-protective clothing,” concludes Dr. Kassouf. “They don’t have to pick just one – if they use them all, in fact, they can help protect themselves better.”