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Wednesday, June 19 Living

The accessory we forget the most: Sunscreen

By now it must sound like a broken record: “Make sure to wear sunscreen every day.”

But is it something you’ve actually incorporated into your everyday skincare routine? I would like to think yes, but the reality is not many people abide by this rule. Protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays is one of the only proven things to make a difference in antiaging — not to mention it prevents skin cancer and yes, those nasty sunburns during beach vacations.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that 90 percent of the changes we see on our skin are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If this is lost on you, they’re talking about age spots and dun, dun, dun, wrinkles! Excuse me while I run to apply more sunscreen!

Because the effects of sun damage don’t appear instantly, many of us push it to the side and forget to apply it. We’re all aware we should wear sunscreen, but it’s not a priority unless we’re headed to the pool or the beach.

I’m here to hand you everything you need to know about sunscreen so you can make an educated choice next time you go sunblock shopping.

What’s sunscreen?

There are two main types of sunscreen: chemical and physical sunscreen.

With a chemical sunscreen, you’ll see ingredients like octisalate, oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone on the label. They work by absorbing radiation into your skin and converting it to heat to make sure no sun damage occurs.

Physical (or mineral) sunscreen works a little differently. The active ingredients you’ll see on the label are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which reflect UV radiation, so no rays actually penetrate the skin.

Something to note is that all sunscreens will have some chemicals in it, no matter how natural you go. The number of chemicals will depend on the brand you ultimately decide to use.

How do you choose between the two?

It’s recommended that people with sensitive or problem-skin opt for physical sunscreen because the heat from the chemical sunscreen can irritate the skin and make matters worse. I would also recommend looking for fragrance-free, oil-free formula and double cleansing at night to make sure you’ve removed all the sunblock so the skin doesn’t breakout or develop clogged pores.

If you don’t have sensitive skin and hate the white cast physical sunscreens tend to leave, then go for a chemical sunblock.

Since no SPF is created equal, it’ll be trial and error finding the right one but knowing how to read the label is the first step in the right direction.

Where does broad spectrum fit in the picture?

Broad spectrum is a must when choosing the right sunscreen. It refers to the protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

UVA rays are long wave ultraviolet rays and go deep into the skin’s thickest layer. These are the rays that cause premature antiaging.

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UVB rays are short wave ultraviolet rays and burn the superficial layer of the skin. In the long run, these rays can cause permanent skin damage and contribute to the development of skin cancer.

A great rule of thumb is to stick to a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher to decrease the chances of skin cancer and longterm skin damage.

What more can you do

to protect your skin?

Don’t rely on SPF in your makeup. You would need about seven times the amount of foundation to get the necessary coverage to fight against the sun’s rays. Most foundations with sunscreen aren’t broad spectrum, either, and remember what we said about broad spectrum? It’s essential!

Apply sunblock liberally. The recommended amount is about two tablespoons for the face so make sure to use enough. This isn’t the area to skimp on in your skincare routine.

Wear a hat if you plan to be outside under direct sunlight for long periods of time. Taking extra precautions to ensure you’re protecting your skin is a must in hot weather.

Remember lips and eyes can “sunburn” too. Use lip balms that contain SPF and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. One of the biggest myths is that the skin on our face is the only area we really need to protect but in all actuality, it’s equally important to protect the rest of the body.

Apply sunscreen on the back of your hands and on your neck. These areas are affected greatly while driving and even while sitting next to a window at work.

Pairing your sunblock with an antioxidant-rich serum or moisturizer fights free radicals and prevents antiaging like no other. This means using a Vitamin E or C serum, among others, will catapult you into a skin-savvy superstar.

Visit Stamford-based fashion and lifestyle blogger Ilse Inzunza at www.livelearnluxeit.com.