My Ultimate Sunscreen Guide ~ Beyond the Basics

I just posted an “epic” product comparison on All-Mineral Sunscreens, as usually happens when I post about sun protection, lots of questions come up about sunscreen use. So today, I’ll answer the top 5 questions and also provide links to where I find information that I trust. Some of these questions don’t have definitive answers, and in those cases, I’ll give you my opinion and try to provide a helpful solution!

Question 1: Do I Really Need to Use Sunscreen Every Day? If so, Why?

I wear sunscreen every day, and I recommend wearing sunscreen every day! In my opinion you’re never to old to start and the younger you start the better. The reason is that scientists are now discovering just how damaging UV radiation is to our skin. In the past people thought getting a painful sunburn was the only problem with overexposure to the sun. But now studies are finding definitive links between UV radiation exposure and skin cancers as well as premature aging.

There are 2 kinds of rays that reach our skin and cause DNA damage. UVB rays are responsible for the sunburn and some skin cancers. UVA rays are responsible for photo-aging and skin cancers as well, but because UVA rays are longer and penetrate deeper into the skin these cancers can be more dangerous. Scientists had never been able to establish a definite link until a study done in Australia showed that daily sunscreen use decreased skin cancers by 50% in the study subjects.

So, if you could decrease your risk of a certain type of cancer by 50% just by applying a cream daily, wouldn’t you do it? I sure would, and that’s why I recommend it to everybody!

But, beyond skin cancer, the same study showed that daily sunscreen use slows skin aging as well. The reason daily use is so important is that UVA rays are the main culprit in photo-aging and skin cancers. That’s because UVA rays are much more prevalent making up 95% of our UV exposure. Unlike shorter UVB rays which only penetrate the surface of our skin, longer UVA rays go deeper into skin reaching the dermis. They are also equally intense whether it’s high noon or 5PM, in summer and in winter. UVA rays go right through clouds and glass and even bounce off reflective surfaces hitting us multiple times from multiple angles. So, we are exposed even on cloudy days, and in our cars and homes.


Additional Reading:

Article: The Verdict Is In: Regular Sunscreen Use Helps Prevent Melanoma & Other Skin Cancers

Article: JAMA: Prevention of Melanoma with Regular Sunscreen Use

Article, CBS News: Daily Sunscreen Slows Skin Aging, Even in Middle Age: Study

Question 2: What’s the Difference Between Mineral & Chemical Sunscreen?

Sunscreen ingredients fall into two categories commonly labeled “mineral” and “chemical”. The name chemical is a little misleading since minerals are chemicals too. Mineral (also called physical) sunscreens are made from either Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide or a combination of both. These are both minerals that come from the earth. When applied to the skin mineral sunscreens form a physical barrier that reflect UV rays away from the skin. Chemical sunscreens are man-made combinations of ingredients that need to be absorbed by the skin to work. They work by absorbing UV radiation, as they absorb the sun’s rays they become less effective. Some sunscreens use all mineral active ingredients, some use all chemical, and some use a combination of both. Both can be equally effective at protecting the skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

Each of the individual chemical sunscreen ingredients block only a portion of the UV spectrum, so a broadspectrum chemical sunscreen will contain 4-5 different active ingredients. Of the mineral sunscreen ingredients, both can technically be called broad spectrum because both Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide block both UVB and UVA ray, but only Zinc Oxide blocks the entire range of UVA 1&2 rays. Titanium Dioxide doesn’t block UVA 1 so it should be used in combination with a UVA 1 blocker.

Graphic credit:

Graphic credit:

I use mineral sunscreen for my face, neck, chest and hands because chemical sunscreens irritate my skin (which is more sensitive because of my retin-a use). Mineral sunscreens are good for people with sensitive skin, acne prone skin, and rosacea. I use chemical sunscreen for the rest of my body because they’re more readily available and less expensive.

Additional Reading: Article: “Understanding UVA and UVB”

Question 3: Do I Really Need To Reapply Sunscreen Every Two Hours?

All sunscreen sold in the US carries an FDA mandated label stating that it should be reapplied every two hours. This number was chosen by the FDA for the general protection of the consumer, so I wouldn’t disagree with it. What I will say is that the 2 hours is not an absolute, it’s a guideline and actual performance will vary depending on how much sunscreen was applied, what the SPF of that product is, how much sun exposure you’re getting, and what type of skin you have. So if you’re out in full sun for a prolonged period of time or sweating or swimming, then definitely try to apply every 2 hours. Where the chemical sunscreens become less effective as they absorb more UV rays I’m more careful to reapply more often.

What I try to do is apply a high spf broad spectrum mineral based sunscreen in the hopes it stays stable on my skin longer and provides me protection for more than 2 hours.

Question 4: How Do I Reapply Sunscreen Over Makeup?

This is a tough one, but I do have a couple of suggestions:

1. Use Mineral Powder Sunscreen for added protection over liquid makeup: There are a few brands on the market, but I bought ColorScience Sunforgettable Mineral Powder Sunscreen SPF 50. It comes in a convenient package with an attached brush that can be carried in a purse for emergency touch-ups. The powder is tinted and very fine so it’s easy to apply and almost invisible.

ColorScience Sunforgettable Mineral Powder Sunscreen SPF 50*

Colorscience Sunforgettable

2. Use BB or CC cream with sunscreen and re-apply throughout the day. I like IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream SPF 50, and Pur Minerals CC Cream SPF 40. Both use all mineral based sunscreens in a tinted lightweight makeup base.

IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream SPF 50*

CC Cream Tubes

Pur Minerals CC Cream SPF 40*

Pur Minerals CC Cream

3. Bring a hat whenever you’ll be out in the sun and you won’t need to reappy sunscreen over makeup. I keep a hat in my car or plan ahead depending on where I’m going and put a crushable hat in my purse for shopping, lunch or concerts.

If you have any suggestions on how to reapply sunscreen over makeup, please leave a comment below.

As you can tell, I think this is an important topic and I’m passionate about getting the information out there so more people can make educated decisions about sun protection. If one person starts using daily sun protection and cuts down their chances of skin cancer and premature aging, then I’ll be very happy!


* Marked links are affiliate links. If you click the link and buy something, I receive a commission for the sale, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra. You are free to use the link or not as you choose.
This is not a sponsored post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *