By Elsa de Berker
Some rules are made to be bent out of shape, busted, and broken. Case in point: Over a decade ago, beauty experts and cosmetic scientists led people to believe that if they had acne-prone or oily skin, their entire skincare regimen should be “oil-free.” Oil was considered public enemy number one, but in the years since, it’s shaken off its dubious veneer to emerge as an essential hero in combating the very issue it was restricted from touching way back when. There are plenty of other outdated beauty rules too, of course, but we’re more interested in the baseline non-negotiable skincare decrees that we all can agree on. So, here’s one to remember now and forever in the future: wear sunscreen, minimum SPF 30, every day, every week, every year.
After months of no socializing, haircuts, hugging our friends, or manicures, it might seem like a menial ask—a money-saving step, and an easy one to skip, as we hold out for brighter days ahead both literally and figuratively speaking—but it remains as essential as ever. Just ask a doctor.
“Yes, you need sunscreen every day of the year, even when it’s overcast, and even in the winter,” says Dr. Morgan Rabach, a board-certified dermatologist who’s been consecutively ranked as a “superdoctor” by The New York Times Magazine for the last five years. Staying indoors doesn’t let you off the hook, either.
“UVA rays come through glass, which includes apartments, houses, and car windows,” Dr. Rabach says. “In fact, people typically have more sun damage and skin cancer on the left side of their face and arm from driving in the car without sunscreen.”
Wearing sunscreen day in, day out has the added benefit of protecting us against something we’re all getting a lot more of during our new indefinite and virus-induced work from home routines—and that’s screen time. “Blue light damage—that’s light that comes off electronic devices, computers, phones, and television screens—causes oxidative damage to skin cells, which in turn causes premature ageing,” Dr. Rabach adds. The preventative is simple: “SPF 30 every day, about a shot glass full, for the face and whole body.”
According to Melissa Doft M.D., a clinical assistant professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College who has her own private plastic surgery practice in New York City, using an antioxidant and vitamin C-rich serum in addition to sunscreen can help combat the negative effects of any electronic-related damage already incurred thus far in quarantine, or before.
“Blue light has been shown to cause free radicals, leading to collagen breakdown and fine lines, so you might want to also consider using a computer shield as an extra cautionary measure too,” she suggests.
While we’re at it, there are a couple more SPF myths Dr. Doft would like to bust now that she has your attention: no sunscreen, (and that includes those labeled waterproof and water-resistant, sweatproof and sweat-resistant) lasts all day. “It’s essential to reapply sunscreen every two hours,” she warns, if you want to protect your skin from both cancer and aging.
Another unfounded myth? Word that SPF 100 is significantly better than SPF 50—it’s not. “Everyone should wear SPF every day, and I would personally recommend that everyone wear SPF 50, but wearing higher won’t make any difference,” says Dr. Doft. So what will?
“Apply sunscreen every morning, and then reapply it every two hours, especially if you're out and about.” If you don’t enjoy slathering yourself up in the great outdoors, Dr. Doft recommends investing in a sun shirt, saying, “They are much easier to apply, and they work all day, too.”
So, here’s the rule of thumb if you want to protect your skin through the rest of 2020 and beyond: wear sunscreen, wear it every day—and make it a bottle, tube, spray (whatever!) of SPF 30, minimum.
Written by Elsa de Berker for Youth To The People