Thankfully, these days, it's not a question of should I wear SPF but which SPF should I wear? Knowing which type of SPF to wear and when to wear it will keep the guesswork out of protecting your skin from painful burns, and UV damage like age spots, wrinkles and skin laxity.
1. Powder SPF
Powdered SPF in the form of pressed and loose mineral powders, or loose powders packed into a handle of a retractable brush are great for on-the-go SPF touch-ups and re-applications on small areas of the body (think face, neck, chest and hands). Typically, the powders are comprised of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which are physical UV blockers that create a shield that reflect UV rays- it's the safest way to go when it comes to sunscreen protection. Powders are fast, instant and clean. Especially great for oily and acne prone skin types, powdered SPF formulations will help to mattefy the skin and will typically not clog the pores. I recommend powdered formulations when clients wear makeup and do not want to disturb it with cream or lotion sunscreens. Simply dusting on mineral SPF will take away any T-zone shine and refresh your UV protection all in one step. The other bonus is that powdered SPF formulations are applied with a brush so you don't have to worry about dirty hands touching skin.
2. SPF Sprays
Spray-on SPF formulations are very popular because they are widely available in the drugstores and grocery stores. They boast extremely high SPF ratings like 50, 70 and beyond and can be easily applied to large areas of the body with the touch of an aerosol nozzle. Similar to powder SPF formulations, spray-ons are clean and fast but the downside is that after application you may need to manually rub them into the skin with your hands to ensure ample coverage. The other downside is that the spray-on varieties are typically composed of chemical based sunscreen ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, homosalate and octinozate which help prevent burns but do not prevent tans. Chemical sunscreen ingredients are designed to make the skin absorb the UV rays and transform them into heat. So clients who are prone to freckles, age-spots or melasma will tend to see these conditions darken while using chemical sunscreens alone because heat can activate all of these conditions. The other things to keep in mind about the spray-on formulations is that they need about 20 minutes to cure on the skin before UV exposure and must be reapplied about every two hours or more if you sweat or your skin gets wet.
3. SPF Lotions
SPF lotions have been on the market for many years. They can be in the form of moisturizing creams, lightweight lotions and spray lotions. They can have a wide range of SPF ratings and usually contain chemical SPF ingredients (see above) and sometimes a physical ingredient (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) as well. SPF lotions need to be applied to clean, dry skin before makeup or any other type of product. You must have clean hands to apply lotions to your skin and if you are acne or breakout prone then it is imperative to ensure that the formulation says that it is "non comedogenic" on the label so that you do not suffer breakouts post use. Lotions need time to work on the skin so be sure to apply them about 20 minutes before UV exposure (and always follow the instructions on the back of the packaging). Lotions can provide hydration and moisture so if your skin tends to be dehydrated, tight or dry, lotions may be the best way to go. Oftentimes, I recommend applying a SPF lotion to the skin of the face then applying mineral makeup or SPF powders over it, for the rest of the day - it's the best of both worlds.
4. SPF Clothing
SPF clothing has become one of the easiest and safest ways to protect skin from harmful UV rays. SPF clothing includes swim shirts, shorts, long sleeve shirts and hats, etc that have an actual SPF rating on the fabric. This SPF rating will mean that you are protected from the sun for as long as you are wearing the clothes - no need to reapply! SPF clothing is a great option for children and adults who are extremely active and want to play all day without constantly reapplying SPF to large portions of the body. Obviously, the fabric should not interact with the skin in a negative way so skin conditions do not need to be taken into account when it comes to using this option. Keep in mind, however, that SPF clothing does not cover every inch of the body so it is important to apply and reapply another SPF option on the exposed areas of the body.
Sunscreen concerns seem to be more prevalent in the spring and summer months when we are outside or away on vacation, but year round SPF is really the name of the game for skin cancer prevention and anti-aging. Think about choosing your SPF formulation based on your preferences for applying it. Each style and formulation has its pros and cons, so find the kind that works best for your lifestyle and skin care concerns.