Welcome back to Put This on Your Face, the series where I tell you what you should be putting on your face. In the past, we’ve talked about some trends hitting the makeup world and #beautytok (multisticks and lip oils, to name a few). Today, however, we’re taking a slightly different approach and talking about the classics. One classic, really. Sunscreen.
It might seem weird to have a whole post dedicated to sunscreen just as we turn the corner into the “official” winter months, but sunscreen is a year-round preventive health necessity! It helps with maintaining an even skin tone, it prevents premature aging, and most importantly, it decreases your risk of skin cancer. I know I have a reputation for not being prescriptive in this column, but we’re taking a pretty significant departure from that, because you need sunscreen daily! I mean it!
If you’re reading this and thinking “But I’m an indoor gay, I don’t need to wear sunscreen daily”, I am here to tell you that unfortunately, that is not true! Not the part about you being an indoor gay (I believe that’s true and wholly respect it) but the part about you wearing sunscreen. If you get significant natural light in your home, you’re likely getting some UV exposure with it (glass doesn’t protect against all UV light).
SPF (Sun Protection Factor, if you’re curious) is a measure of how much UV radiation it takes for someone to get a sunburn on protected skin relative to the amount needed to get a sunburn on unprotected skin. Basically, the higher the SPF value, the more sunburn protection you’re getting. Experts recommend SPF 30 or higher and say you should reapply every two hours if you have extended sun exposure. Because this is Put This on Your Face, I’m only going to talk about face sunscreens here, but please know that this SPF 30 and reapplication rule applies to all parts of your body that are getting sun exposure!
There are, in general, two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens are the mineral ones, the ones that are able to deflect UV rays away from the skin. They do tend to leave more of a white cast than their chemical alternatives, which isn’t super surprising considering they remain on the skin like a barrier against the sunlight. If you have sensitive skin, physical sunscreen might be a better choice as it’s less irritating than chemical sunscreen.
Supergoop! (unrelated to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop) is a heavy hitter in the sunscreen world and has a physical sunscreen — the Mineral Sheerscreen Sunscreen ($38). It’s admittedly pricey, on par with its other offerings, but very sheer if that’s what you’re going for. If you want something more matte, the brand also makes a Mineral Mattescreen Sunscreen ($38) that is slightly tinted! First Aid Beauty’s Mineral Sunscreen ($28) is another fan-favorite. Neutrogena’s Sheer Zinc Face Mineral Sunscreen ($17) is half the price of the Supergoop! and also sheer. EltaMD is a brand that my derm recommends all the time, and they make a physical sunscreen too, the EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum ($39).
The chemical world requires a bit more planning than the physical one. Because physical sunscreens sit on your face like a shield, you don’t need to wait for anything to be absorbed by your skin before going outside. With chemical sunscreens, that’s unfortunately not the case — you’ll want to wait 15 minutes before sun exposure. That being said, they do (typically) blend into the skin better, so if that’s important to you, perhaps chemical is the way to go.
Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Moisturizer ($15) has SPF in it, making it a multitasking morning product. If you’re worried about a white cast, Black Girl Sunscreen ($15) is specifically made for skin with more melanin in it, so you know it won’t leave a white cast. Supergoop!’s bestseller, the Unseen Sunscreen ($36), is a primer-sunscreen duo and great for layering under makeup. Fun fact: Trader Joe’s makes a dupe of this, but it’s always sold out at my local Trader Joe’s locations. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it, I’ve heard it’s just as good as the real thing for a fraction of the price ($9). There’s the innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen ($15) if your skin is on the drier side, and the Cetaphil Oil Control Moisturizer ($18) if your skin is more oily.
One of the coolest skincare products I’ve seen lately (leaving out all the tech-y things like the NuFace, TheraFace, etc.) is all the stick sunscreens on the market. They’re great for tossing into your bag without having to worry about spills! Also, you can apply them over makeup, making the whole “two hours” rule much easier to follow. The Shiseido Clear Sunscreen Stick ($29) goes on clear, is water resistant, and can be reapplied over makeup with minimal smudging. The Supergoop! Glow Stick Sunscreen ($25) is great for dry skin and imparts a glowy sheen all over your face. For a mineral alternative, you could try the EltaMD UV Stick Broad-Spectrum ($34), or the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Vitamin E Sunscreen Stick ($13).
Makeup / Sunscreen Combos
We all know I love a multitasking product! Some of my favorite sunscreens are tinted ones that I use under my makeup or that I sub in for a lightweight foundation. The Revlon ColorStay Makeup For Normal/Dry Skin ($16) is a medium-to-full coverage foundation with sun protection. Rare Beauty’s Positive Light Tinted Moisturizer ($29) has a wide shade range and is a bit lighter coverage! Both the Saie Slip Tint Dewy Tinted Moisturizer ($36) and the Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF Tinted Sunscreen Foundation ($30) have gotten great press, but the former was a bit too oily for my liking. My personal favorite is the ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint ($48). It’s pretty sheer, so if you’re looking for something full coverage, it’s probably not the best bet, but it is a physical sunscreen and super hydrating (squalane and hyaluronic acid will do that). If you’re in the market for a setting powder, the tarte SEA Set & Protect Mineral Sunscreen Powder ($30) is a physical powder sunscreen that sets makeup and has sun protection in it!
There are so many sunscreens on the market! Honestly, the best way to find the right one for you is to figure out what kind of formulation you want (physical or chemical) and to try out different products from there. The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t use any sunscreen at all!