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The importance of being mindful about your exposure to the sun cannot be overstated, considering that five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma. That statistic feels even more troubling when you stop to consider that it only takes a few minutes for skin to burn; experts say it takes less than 15 minutes to sustain a sunburn.
The good news is that there are a plethora of ways to enjoy the sunshine responsibly that don’t require you to become a recluse: avoid wearing black or darker colored clothes, for example, as these colors absorb more UV rays and put your skin at a higher risk. Additionally, make sure your arms and legs are covered, and that you’re taking regular and lengthy shade breaks. Most importantly, make sure you’re wearing sunscreen. Our suggestion: start with a mineral sunscreen.
When to Wear Sunscreen
You should be applying, and re-applying, sunscreen every day of the week regardless of the weather; clouds do not block, or protect your skin from, any UV rays. Make sure to apply sunscreen to all areas of your body that are exposed, especially your face. Doing so not only protects you from developing sunburn, but wrinkles, inflammation and discoloration as well. Sunscreen should always be the final thing you put on your face prior to going outside; applying any other skincare product or makeup on top could actually break your sunscreen down, leaving your skin more susceptible to harmful UV rays.
That said, all sunscreens aren’t the same, so it’s important to do some homework before you make a decision. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to apply the sunscreen you use on your arms and legs to your face, depending on your skin’s sensitivity you may need to have a different option specifically for your face to avoid a breakout. Before you select your sunscreen, make sure you understand the different types available, and their unique advantages and disadvantages to see what’s right for you.
Sunscreen Types and Differences
When it comes to sunscreen, you can go with a physical or chemical option; the key difference between the two deals with how they work to protect your skin. Physical, or mineral-based, sunscreens act as a shield that sit on your skin and repel the harmful radiation, whereas chemical-based sunscreens are absorbed into your skin — this is why they are generally easier to apply than their mineral-based siblings. However, physical or mineral sunscreens tend to provide more protection and generally work better for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin.
One of the major complaints around mineral-based sunscreens is that they may leave a white cast, which can be especially aggravating the darker your natural skin tone is. Thankfully, you can invest in a tinted option that matches your complexion to avoid this. Regardless of what type of sunscreen you choose, be sure to remember to reapply every two hours that you’re outside.
What Is SPF? Sun Protection Factor
A lot of people get hung up on the SPF of a particular sunscreen, but there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what it actually means and how it relates to your skin. The Sun Protection Factor of your sunscreen measures the level of UV radiation needed to burn skin protected by sunscreen. So basically, the higher the SPF value, the more protection is offered. There are several different factors that play into just how much radiation you’re being exposed to, including where you are, what time of the day it is, how sensitive or fair your skin is and the frequency with which you’re reapplying your sunscreen.
So, does that mean you need to run out and buy a bunch of SPF 100? Not exactly. Dermatologists generally regard SPF 30 as, “the magic number,” as it blocks 97% of UV rays compared to SPF 15 which only blocks 93%. The difference between SPF 30 and anything higher is much smaller, between just 1 and 2%, so while it might not be a bad idea if you have extremely fair and sensitive skin, it’s not a dealbreaker. As long as you consistently reapply every two hours and take regular shade breaks, you will be fine.
What Are the Best Mineral Sunscreens?
The best mineral sunscreens will offer full-body (and full-face) protection from the harsh UV rays of the sun. Below is our list of the best mineral sunscreens, including affordable and lightweight options that will give their chemical counterparts a run for their money.
1. Solaire UV Multi-Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+
This 100% mineral sunscreen is so fluid and smooth you may mistake it for a chemical-based option at first. Not only does it provide ample protection from the sun and those pesky UV rays, there are plenty of key ingredients (including niacinamide and thermal spring water) that work to soothe your skin and keep it from becoming agitated.
Best of all, this is friendly for a host of different skin types — whether you’re extremely fair or if you have dark skin, you won’t need to work very hard to properly apply this or be stuck with white streaks.
2. Hydra Lipid UV Mineral Sunscreen
Not only does Glytone’s mineral sunscreen defend your skin, it hydrates it as well thanks to the hyaluronic acid and squalane found in its formula. Say goodbye to sunburns and fine lines, and hello to responsibly enjoying some time in the sun.
We like the soothing texture of this mineral sunscreen and how easy it rubs into the skin.
3. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Sunscreen
This was actually my go-to for many years when I was beginning to develop a skincare routine. Not only is it lightweight, fast absorbing and significantly cheaper than many other options, it also doesn’t leave your fingers or face feeling greasy afterwards, which was something I had disliked about other sunscreens I was trying at the time.
This mineral sunscreen is also friendly to all skin types and tones — whether you have dark skin, sensitive skin or both, reviewers say the sunscreen actually works to protect and nourish your skin instead of agitating it. The slim container is also compact and easy to transport; I would keep this in my small cross body bag whenever I would go out just in case it was time to reapply.
4. Mineral Magic Sunscreen
You would be forgiven for mistaking Tula’s mineral-based sunscreen for a chemical-based option; the silky and fluid composition allows this sunscreen to be easily applied without agonizing over working it into your skin, almost like magic. Thanks to the peach extracts and wild butterfly ginger its formulated with, not only will this sunscreen shield your face from harmful UV rays, it will also help to highlight your skin’s natural glow.
5. EltaMD UV Sport Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
EltaMD’s water-resistant sunscreen is perfect for athletes, people who do a lot of work outside or those who may be more prone to sweating, thanks to the zinc oxide found in its formula; this sunscreen won’t sting or drip if you do happen to sweat during activity outside.
6. Invisible Physical Defense Mineral Sunscreen
Dermalogica’s Invisible Defense Sunscreen is just that: an intangible shield from the sun. Rather than a thick and chalky white texture, this sunscreen feels weightless when you apply it to your skin. Formulated with a winning combination of non-nano zinc oxide and bioactive mushroom complex, this also actively fights against redness associated with UV exposure, as well as environmental aggressors that could trigger excess dryness.
7. Clean Screen Mattifying Face Sunscreen
This sunscreen from REN Skincare boasts a clean, silicone-free and cruelty-free formula that is suitable for all skin types, no matter where you fall on the spectrum. While some find that mineral-based sunscreens can sometimes clog their pores, this actively works against that. In fact, the rich starch found in its formula works to absorb excess oil, minimize your pores and mattify your face, highlighting its natural sheen as opposed to an oily looking shine.