In the last few years, we have witnessed sun care get a serious upgrade. Not only are there far more formulas and types to choose from now — we are talking everything from sticks and serums to featherlight lotions and gels — but brands are also bringing us out-of-the-box innovations we can get on board with. For instance: There are skin-perfecting treatments boasting broad-spectrum SPF, setting sprays and powders that provide protection, and even hair mists that act as a shield from sun damage.
Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t always start with a base layer of SPF 30 or higher in your skincare routine. Any dermatologist in the game will tell you that purely using products with sunscreen in them isn’t enough, as they simply don’t offer enough coverage to properly protect your skin. As a rule, experts recommend using a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen every day. Still, it can never hurt to have an extra veil of protection — plus, what makes the aforementioned non-sunscreen sunscreens worth the money is the fact that all serve a purpose aside from just sun protection.
To help you determine which type will best suit you and your skin’s needs, we tapped a board-certified dermatologist to break down exactly how each one works — including how to use them most effectively.
The All-in-One Hydrator
Unlike your typical lotions and creams, this SPF from fan-favorite suncare brand Supergoop! comes in convenient stick form. “This product uses a combination of chemical sunscreens to protect the skin, and is an excellent option for anyone because it’s so easy to use, as well as portable,” says Sejal Shah, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City and founder of Smarter Skin Dermatology. Shah adds: “To get the best protection with a stick, for each area of skin, you should apply around four passes back and forth to ensure that you have an even layer of coverage.”
In addition to protecting from UV and UVB rays, it also works to nourish and replenish the skin with ingredients like buriti and tamanu oils, both of which support skin regeneration and help to repair existing sun damage. Even better: It also contains calming antioxidant-rich meadowfoam seed oil and anti-inflammatory calendula extract, making it an especially ideal formula for anyone with sensitive skin.
Supergoop! also has an innovative cream eyeshadow, but dermatologists warn that it does not give the eye area enough protection on it own.
The On-the-Go Protector
While there are various versions of powder sunscreen on the market, we are particularly partial to this one from Paula’s Choice, as it contains ceramides and vitamins C and E to help strengthen the skin and fight against free radicals. Shah explains that it’s essentially just a translucent powder form of zinc oxide, which is a widely-used type of mineral sunscreen.
“These powders are best used as a second layer of protection over a separate broad-spectrum sunscreen, or for reapplication,” says Shah, who then adds, “To use, remove the cap and lower the sleeve to expose the bristles, then tap the brush until powder flows through and you can apply it evenly over the skin.”
Another reason this powder SPF is worth toting around with you: Unlike some of its competitors, it is completely undetectable on the skin and never gets cakey, no matter how many times you reapply.
The Base Booster
If you are someone who wears foundation or tinted moisturizer on a daily basis, then an SPF-infused mist like this one from Coola will be your best friend, as it allows you to re-up on your sun protection every two hours — sans ruining your makeup. Shah says it uses chemical sunscreen ingredients to shield the skin from damage, and like with powder SPFs, she advises using it as an extra layer of protection rather than on its own. As far as application is concerned, Shah suggests holding the bottle approximately six to ten inches away from your face with your eyes closed and then misting as evenly as possible.
Additionally, this spray features ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which creates a moisture barrier on the skin so that it stays hydrated and smooth, as well as aloe and cucumber fruit extract to help calm easily irritated complexions.
The Redness Reducer
This creamy mint-green treatment from Dr. Jart+ kills two birds with one stone by correcting redness and protecting the skin with broad-spectrum SPF 30. As for the latter, it features a blend of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which, when applied topically, have the ability to block UVA and UVB rays from being absorbed into the skin.
Additionally, it tames redness like nobody’s business. “This treatment contains several calming, soothing and protecting ingredients, including centella asiatica,” explains Shah, who adds that she would suggest using this on top of your other sunscreen for best results. It is also safe for all skin types — even the most sensitive — as it is formulated without common nasties like chemicals, artificial fragrance and color, alcohol, and more ingredients that are known to irritate the skin. It also features soothing agents like raspberry leaf extract, which helps reduce inflammation, and panthenol, which restores moisture in the skin.
The Strand Safeguard
Folks often forget about their hair when it comes to SPF, but they shouldn’t, seeing as the sun can actually wreak havoc on our precious tresses, too. To protect your mane and keep it in tip-top shape all summer, use a leave-in spray with UVA and UVB filters, like this one from Aveda.
This hair mist uses natural UV filters derived from wintergreen and cinnamon bark oils to combat sun damage. Additionally, it features antioxidant-rich green tea extract, nourishing vitamin E, and coconut oil to make the hair feel especially soft and silky. Shah suggests spritzing a liberal amount (anywhere from six to ten pumps) all over the hair, and then of course, reapplying every two hours.
The Sun-Safe Self-Tanner
With this sunscreen-infused, tan-enhancing oil from MoroccanOil, you won’t have to sacrifice getting a bronzed glow just because you are practicing proper sun care. This lightweight, fast-absorbing oil helps amp your existing faux tan and leaves your skin moisturized and protected.
Argan and vitamin E oils soften the skin, while coconut oil helps improve the skin’s texture and tone. Slather on in the morning, and throughout the day every two hours, for glowing limbs that look bronzed — never burned.
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