We’re all about embracing every bit of melanin that you were born blessed with, but we want you to do it in the safest way possible. A lot of people make some very common mistakes when it comes to sunscreen. Most of us think that buying it and remembering to apply it regularly is all that matters, especially women of color who might not have grown up using it, but there are actually more specific ways to get the most out of your sunscreen and get the best protection for your skin that you can.
Sunscreen is pricey, but it’s an essential tool to keep your skin cancer-free and safe from painful sunburns, as well as from premature signs of aging. It’s important to purchase the right sunscreen for your skin and to use it in the most effective way possible. To help you make sure you’re doing just that, we’ve compiled some tips on how to avoid common sunscreen mistakes, along with some suggestions for specific sunscreens to buy from some terrific, innovative Latinx-owned companies.
Not Wearing Any At All
If we’re being honest, we have to admit that many if not most of us did not get slathered up in sunscreen every time we went to play outside in the summer or even during family beach trips. Our parents simply didn’t know or understand the importance of sunscreen. And it seemed like the darker your skin was the less it was prioritized. Now as adults, we have to make an effort create the habit of applying sunscreen when we’re going to be outdoors.
Not Applying it Daily
Sun protection should be happening every single day — at least on the parts of your body that get the most exposure to sun like your face and hands. Many of us use daily moisturizers or even makeup products that contain SPF, but most dermatologists recommend using a dedicated SPF product daily. We like this touchless SPF mister from Latinx-owned and founded Habit Skincare which features broad spectrum SPF 41 and is super easy to reapply throughout the day.
Not Using Enough
Less is simply not more when it comes to sunscreen. To cover your face adequately, you need to use about a nickel size amount of sunscreen each and every time you apply — including re-applications — and for your entire body, you need to apply about a shot glass’ worth of sunscreen for full coverage. If you’re using sunscreen spray, apply two coats each and every time. Without using these amounts, you aren’t actually getting the full SPF coverage listed on your bottle of sunscreen. Again, what’s in your makeup or daily moisturizer is definitely not enough if you consider these guidelines.
Not Considering Your Vitamin C Products
Vitamin C-infused skincare products are all the rage right now, and for good reason. They’re known to stimulate collagen production, reduce inflammation, and brighten your complexion. But, when applied to skin, Vitamin C can also decrease melanin synthesis, which may make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays. If you use Vitamin C skincare products, you absolutely must use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily, and remember to reapply every few hours.
Speaking of…re-applying your sunscreen really is important. Putting sunscreen on once in the morning — particularly if you’re going to have any sun exposure at all later in the day, even through a window — is almost pointless. If you’re spending most of your time indoors, re-apply every few hours, but if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, you need to re-apply at least every two hours. A product like the Essential Daily Sunscreen Mini from Latinx-owned company Antedotum is great because it comes in a tiny portable tube and is formulated to be hydrating and ideal for all skin tones, since it doesn’t leave the dreaded white cast.
Not Reading the Label
It’s really important to read labels when you purchase sunscreen because the ingredients used make a huge difference. Doing so will not only help you understand how a particular sunscreen works and how to apply it for maximum effectiveness, but it will also ensure that you’re buying a safe product that does everything you need it to. For instance, only sunscreen products described as “broad spectrum,” protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. A good one to try is the Daily Defense Sunscreen Balm from Thrive, which is also Latinx owned. It’s a mineral sunscreen that’s all-natural, plant-based, and moisturizing. It’s also important to know the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen. Mineral uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect UV off rays before they penetrate the skin. Chemical use ingredients that absorb damaging UV rays and convert them to non-damaging heat that’s released. Chemical options work best for darker skin tones as mineral sunscreens often leave a white cast on darker skin, Allure reported.
Not Applying to Your Lips
Although the skin on your lips is decidedly different from the skin on the rest of your face, it still needs the same sun protection. Not using SPF on your lips puts you at risk for both lip cancer and painfully sunburned lips. Always look for a lip balm that has at least SPF 15 and reapply throughout the day. Protecting your lips from the sun is so much easier than the rest of your body or even your face since you already likely apply lip balm regularly. There’s no excuse not to switch to an SPF lip product.
Not Replacing Old Product
Using old sunscreen is almost as bad as using no sunscreen. Ask around and we’re sure someone you know has been badly sunburned after using sunscreen that’s been in the closet for a few years. A lot of sunscreen products actually have an expiration date on the bottle, but if yours doesn’t, it’s best to toss it if it’s been more than about three years since you bought it. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and just replace it.
Not Using it On Cloudy Days
While it may look like it, clouds don’t actually block UVA and UVB rays. It’s actually even more dangerous for your skin when it’s overcast, since many of us will forget to initially apply sunscreen on those days, let alone remember to re-apply when it’s pouring rain outside or even just dark and dreary out. We know it’s tempting to let yourself get a bit lazy and take a day off when the sun’s not out, but just stick with your routine no matter what, and your skin will thank you.
Not Applying Early Enough
Rather than applying your sunscreen when you get to the beach or the pool, you should be applying it before you get dressed for your day in the sun, about 15-45 minutes before stepping outside. Doing so gives your skin a chance to absorb the sunscreen which is important for effectiveness. Waiting until you arrive at your sunny destination means that sun damage will have already started by the time you begin applying. Plus, you’re more likely to rush the application if you’re already sitting in the sand.