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Tinted or clear?  Lotion or powder?  Chemical or physical?  From figuring out SPF numbers to choosing the best sunscreen for your skin type, there’s a lot to know when it comes to sun protection and healthy skin.  With summer here, we decided to ask our facial plastic surgeon and skincare expert, Dr. Inessa Fishman, to share her expertise on SPF–and more!

“Every patient wants to look good, and sun protection is an important part of skin health,” says Dr. Fishman.  “I get questions about which sun protection products are best almost every day this time of year.”

What’s the lowest SPF I can wear to prevent sun damage? And the highest?

Got questions about sun protection? Find your answers here.
While the SPF system is complicated, there are basic numbers and rules to know to keep things simple–and to keep your skin adequately protected, says Dr. Fishman.  The SPF system is not a linear correlation between number value and sun protection, and while SPF30 is significantly more protective than SPF15, the difference between SPF30 and SPF100 is tiny–and likely not worthwhile in terms of the price difference.

Keeping the SPF scale in mind, Dr. Fishman recommends SPF30 as the minimal sun protection number to use on a daily basis.  Besides this, she also recommends sticking to physical sun protective ingredients–such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide–which deflect UV rays like a shield on the skin.  “I like physical blockers because these ingredients work to protect you skin from the sun immediately,” says Dr. Fishman, “There’s no waiting for lotions to get absorbed into the skin, and no worries about potentially systemic absorption either.”

How does the SPF number relate to skin type?

Whether you are freckly and fair or have an olive undertone to your skin, sun protection is important.  While Dr. Fishman recommends SPF30 as minimum, regular protection, she says that lack of reapplication is where many patients fall short.  “Especially on summer days, when you’re swimming or sweating or spending a significant amount of time outside, reapplying sun protection every 2 hours is an effective way to keep yourself protected,” says Dr. Fishman.  This is true for patients with darker skin tones and those who are already tan.  Other sun protection recommendations to keep in mind are avoiding the sun during peak hours of the day, and investing in great barrier clothing and hats with built-in SPF protection.

Does the SPF in makeup offer enough sun protection?

According to Dr. Fishman, the SPF in makeup is usually not quite enough for good sun protection.  “Most foundations or tinted moisturizers have an SPF of 15,” says Dr. Fishman, “and beyond this, most people use a pretty small amount of product on their face.”  Because of this, Dr. Fishman recommends using a dedicated sunblock under your makeup, and stresses reapplication on days with lots of anticipated sun exposure.

How do I reapply sunblock when I already have makeup on?

The trick to continued sun protection without messing up your already-polished look is an alternative sunscreen in powder or spray form, shares Dr. Fishman.  Whether you’re reapplying over your makeup or onto a squirming toddler, Dr. Fishman likes a powder sunblock with the physical blockers zinc oxide and titanium oxide made by ColoreScience.  “I love the ColoreScience pre-loaded brush sunblock,” says Dr. Fishman, “and usually keep a brush in my car and bag for as-needed reapplication.”

Which sunscreen formulation is best for all-over sun protection?

With powders, sprays, lotions, and sport sticks, it’s easy to get confused between sunblock formulations–and decide on which one will work best for you.  This said, Dr. Fishman recommends a lotion for the initial application, and a spray (for the body) and powder (for the face) as good options for continued re-application.

With this expert sun protection knowledge, you should be ready to take on summer–and the rest of the year!  Dr. Fishman encourages you to protect your skin and remind your friends and loved ones about the importance of skin health and god sun habits.