- Even 10 minutes of incidental sun exposure can cause significant damage over time.
- Part of taking care of your skin in the summer includes investing in a good sunscreen to protect your face and body.
- We asked dermatologists to share the sunscreens they like best and recommend most. Below, you'll find eight of them - all under $50.
If every dermatologist had to condense their wisdom into one thirty-second elevator pitch for patients, my guess is it'd probably be "wear sunscreen." No matter who I've interviewed, or what questions I've asked in doctor's appointments, this is by far the most consistent - and vehement - advice. Every time you go outside, your skin is exposed to UVA and UVB rays and free radicals, which can lead to premature aging and health risks like cancer. According to Dr. Dendy Engelman, a nationally acclaimed dermatological surgeon and renown dermatologist, incidental sun exposure for only 10-15 minutes a day adds up over time and can cause significant sun damage and accelerated photoaging.
As summer rolls in, it's important to invest in your skin - and, by extension, your long-term health - by picking a sunscreen you will reliably apply (and re-apply). This means finding one that fits with your lifestyle, has adequate protection, and actually inspires you to use it every day.
Choosing the right sunscreen
If you're out shopping for your new summer sunscreen, Dr. Engelman's advice boils down to a few rules of thumb: You should look for broad-spectrum coverage (this means UVA and UVB protection), ideally SPF 50 coverage or higher, and antioxidants that protect skin against free-radical damage. Dr. Engelman recommends using about an ounce of product at a time for your entire body (depending on body shape and size) to cover up exposed skin, and "reapplication is non-negotiable." If you use a chemical sunscreen, apply it 30 minutes before you head outside; some of its compounds take up to 30 minutes to activate. So, if you're sitting at the beach and only applying it then, you could risk going unprotected for longer than you think.
If you're acne-prone, try mineral sunscreens (also known as physical blockers) before the chemical kind.
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into heat, and then releasing that heat. Since key ingredients in a chemical sunscreen are absorbed into your skin - rather than laying on top of it like a mineral formula - they're more likely to cause a breakout and allergic reactions, skin irritations, or skin ailments related to heat.
You shouldn't use sunscreen sprays, unless you a) started with cream first and are just using the spray to re-apply coverage, or b) rub it in and spread it across the skin equally. If you don't spread it everywhere, UV light can get between the molecules. Make sure that, if you do use a spray, it doesn't contain oxybenzone: "While safe to be on the skin, when ingested [as in, inhaled while spraying] it acts as a hormone and disrupts the body's reproductive tract," says Dr. Engelman.
But, aside from the formula, Dr. Engelman says the best sunscreen is simply the one you actually wear 365-days per year - even in cloudy weather.
To help narrow the field, I've rounded up six sunscreens under $50 that come recommended to us by dermatologists. Some are good for acne-prone skin, some are good for the reefs, and all are used and loved by dermatologists themselves.
Read on for 8 sunscreens dermatologists recommend and why - all under $50:
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