Sunscreen Cheat Sheet: Choosing the Right Sunscreen for Happy, Healthy Skin

June 12, 2024

How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

What’s the very first thing you do when you get to the beach?

A) Buy a hotdog

B) Lay out your towel

C) Rush for the ocean

D) Apply sunscreen

If you answered D, you’re well on your way to happy, healthy skin this summer.

Next to wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, regularly applying sunscreen is the single most important thing you can do to protect your skin.

But not all sunscreens are made the same. Let’s take a look at what the ingredients in sunscreen actually mean and how to choose the right one for you.

How Much Sunscreen Do I Really Need?

If you’re spending any time at all outside – especially in places that get tons of sun, like the beach – make sure you put on a golf-ball sized gob of sunscreen every two or three hours.

If you go in the water or you sweat a lot, you might need to reapply more often, even if you’re wearing water-resistant block. Water has a nasty habit of washing even the best sunscreen off.

OK, OK, everyone knows you’re supposed to wear sunscreen in the summer – what about the rest of the year?

Since the sun never goes away, your sunscreen shouldn’t, either.

If it’s cloudy, wear sunscreen.

Rainy? Sunscreen.

You should even wear it in the winter.

The only way to protect your skin at all times of the year is to wear sunscreen.

Chemical v. Mineral Sunscreens – What’s the Difference?

There are two main types of sunscreens: chemical and mineral.

Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients like octocrylene and homosalate that absorb the sun’s rays and turn them into something less dangerous for your skin.

While the research says that chemical sunscreens don’t pose any added risk, some people don’t like the idea of chemicals touching their skin.

If you’re in that group, then mineral sunscreens are for you.

Mineral sunscreens are usually zinc or titanium based and sit on top of the skin. Instead of absorbing those rays, they reflect them back, protecting your skin like a blanket.

But mineral sunscreens aren’t for everyone.

Since sunscreen tends to be white, mineral blocks can create a sunscreen cast. Although there are many newer ones that don’t leave a cast due to better technology, chemical sunscreens might be your best bet after all.

Stay on the lookout for various shades of tinted sunscreens to match all skin tones, which are becoming more popular.

“No Phthalates, No Parabens, No Sulfates.”

You’ve probably seen a label like this at the top of your sunscreen.

Must be a good thing, right?

Well, the jury is still out.

We’re still learning about phthalates, parabens and sulfates. They are in just about everything, from creams and moisturizers to candy and beer, and they play an important role making sure your products do what they’re supposed to.

Early research suggests they may disrupt certain hormones in our bodies, which could increase our risk for a variety of health complications.

But more research needs to be done. Until then, the only thing we know for certain is that too much time in direct sunlight can lead to all sorts of nasty skin conditions.

So, whether it contains parabens or not, wear sunscreen.

Should My Kids Wear the Same Sunscreen as Me?

If this brand of sunscreen is safe for me, it must be fine for my kids, right?

Not necessarily.

Children tend to have more sensitive skin, so you should be cautious about which types of sunscreen you pack in your beach bag.

Consider avoiding chemical sunscreens and those with heavy fragrance.

They aren’t dangerous, but they can be more irritating for your kids’ skin. That’s no fun for anyone, but it might also mean your kids won’t want to wear sunscreen again next time.

At the end of the day, your choice of sunscreen is up to you. But the most important thing to remember is that whichever one you choose, some sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all.

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