Ask any dermatologist how to maintain healthy looking skin and it is likely that their first recommendation will be incorporating a sunscreen into your daily routine.With summer is in full swing, it's imporant now—more than ever— to make sure we're protecting skin from the harmful rays of the sun. And, whether you are at the beach every weekend or just laying low, sunscreen is a crucial step in your morning routine and throughout the day, depending on our exposure. We tapped Unsun Cosmetics founder, Katonya Breaux, for her tips on maintaining healthy, protected skin all summer long.
1. Know the difference between physical vs. chemical. A physical sunscreen sits on the face like a mask, which Breaux says offers the best protection, while a chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin. Breaux’s Unsun is all natural and physical.
2. Know what ingredients to look for. In a mineral sunscreen, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the active ingredients. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. In Breaux’s Unsun she uses aloe, coconut oil, beeswax and a variety of extracts to nourish the skin.
3. Find the formula that's right for you. Children’s sunblock or anti-aging specific product lines should be used by their intended audiences. Breaux explains that the formulas are created to protect a child’s thinner skin and anti-aging lines keep women’s wants in mind. The sun increases the appearance of pre-mature aging. A sunscreen helps to improve these issues.
4. Don't be fooled by high SPFs. Breaux says SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of the sun’s damage. In 2012 the FDA proposed to limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labeling to SPF 50+. She says anything higher is misleading. Unsun has an SPF of 30, which protects 97 percent of sun damage.
5. When it comes to sunscreen, less is not more. Breaux says one quarter of a teaspoon is the recommended amount of sunscreen. If you use a product with SPF, but whose main purpose is not sun protection, you are probably not getting the recommended levels. The amount of sunscreen in the suggested one pump, or dime-sized dollop of foundation or tinted moisturizer will not have a quarter teaspoon of sunscreen.
6. Read the directions. If you are using a chemical sunscreen, which is your most common drugstore sunscreen, following the directions is important. The recommended time it says to apply the product before sun exposure is to give the sunscreen time to absorb into the skin. These sunscreens do not provide immediate protection so early prep is important.
7. Make it a habit. Breaux believes wearing sunscreen is a daily necessity. She recommends putting a physical sunscreen on and continuing with your regular makeup routine. If you are in constant sun exposure, you need to re-apply your sunscreen every two hours.
8. Don't forget about the rest of your body. On a daily basis, sun protection is not just important for your face, but your body too. While we can expect a mineral body sunscreen from Unsun in the future, Breaux uses a Lubriderm body lotion with SPF 15 in the meantime. She recommends staying away from spray applicators because of the high concentration of chemicals.
9. Remember that melanoma does not discriminate. Breaux says the melanin in our skin gives us a natural protection of about 13 SPF, which protects your skin for about 20 minutes. The idea of people with darker skin not getting skin cancer is a myth. Sun protection is not just about beauty, but health as well.
10. Know how to spot the sun damage. Sun damage can show up in a variety of ways. Spots on the face, premature wrinkling and blotchiness of the skin are common indicators. In black women specifically, sun damage manifests itself as black moles. If you are experiencing any of these signs, Breaux suggests getting your skin to a healthy point and start protecting it. You also may want to make an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin check.