No Fun in the Sun? 4 Ways to Make Sure You Actually Wear SPF

Your get-real guide to sunscreen this summer

best sunscreen

(Photo: David Picard)

The sun’s power to wither our skin from plump grape to wrinkled raisin is old news, and we’ve heard all the (naggy) advice: never set foot in daylight without sunscreen, apply tons, reapply every two hours and hide indoors during peak scorching time.

“All UV is bad for your skin,” reiterates Dr. Sonya Cook of Toronto’s Compass Dermatology. “A tan is never safe.” Yes, she’s a stickler, but she’s also more focused on realistic solutions than pointless finger wagging. “You want to minimize your risks, but you still want to enjoy life, right?” says the derm, who’s also a consultant for La Roche-Posay. To which we answer: Damn right—break out the two-piece (and the tequila!). Here, our for-real-life guide to buying, wearing and obeying the almighty SPF.

Find something you love
Nobody’s asking you to walk around with a ghastly ghost face. Just like finding that perfect night cream, invest in a texture you don’t hate (i.e., not too chalky, not too greasy) so you’ll actually use it daily. “I recommend applying a nice, even layer of lotion in the morning, and then you can touch up with a spray,” says Dr. Cook. “That said, if the only thing you’re willing to wear is a spray, it’s better than nothing.” Requisite PSA: You need at least an SPF 30 (the minimum recommended by the Canadian Dermatology Association) and the crucial words “broad spectrum” on the label for protection against both UVB (burning rays) and UVA, the skin-aging baddies we’re exposed to even on cloudy, crappy days.

Get real high (in SPF, that is)
The number listed on a product assumes you’re laying it on thick: a teaspoon’s worth on your face and one ounce (that’s a full shot glass) on your body. Most people don’t get anywhere close, and the math is even worse than you think. “If you’re putting on one-quarter [of that amount] using an SPF 30, you’re not getting an SPF of eight. You’re getting an SPF of maybe two,” says Dr. Cook. So suck it up and put on more, or at the very least, use a higher SPF—we’d reach for the 50-plus.

Go ahead, take a break
The old wisdom to slather sunscreen every other hour was kind of “arbitrary,” admits Dr. Jennifer Beecker, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and national chair of the Sun Awareness Program at the Canadian Dermatology Association. “UV filters do degrade, but not within two hours.” Instead, she advises applying one layer really well (as per Dr. Cook’s advice) and then adding a second layer within an hour of activity, just to make sure you’ve put on enough. Top up if you’re swimming, sweating or doing other physical activities (ahem) while in the sun. And in case you’re wondering, just dabbing on makeup with SPF in it won’t cut it, but putting that over your sunscreen is fine—you’ll be less likely to miss a spot.

Spend it up
Even with the best sunscreen, your skin will still get some UV damage unless it’s physically covered up (unfortunately, even a beach umbrella only provides an SPF of 10 due to reflection from the sand). So bust out that credit card and lay some chatting on a Rag & Bone fedora or cover your peepers with a sick pair of Saint Laurent aviators. “Clothing always outperforms sunscreen, unless it’s totally see-through,” says Beecker.

Scroll through for our fave new products that make sun protection a cinch.

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