4 reasons your sunscreen might not be working.

This year has already been INCREDIBLY hot and I have seen quite a few burns in my practice room. Most of my clients diligently apply sunscreen, but they're still getting damage. Here's a scenario I heard recently:


Amazing client who is 44 and focused on preventing signs of aging showing up on her skin, but also wants to live her life here on coast which includes going out on her family's boat frequently.


She follows her routine, putting on her anti-aging serum and moisturizer in the morning and making sure she uses her make up primer that is also an SPF of 30. Then she sets out for a beautiful day on the water, enjoying the waves and summer fun.


When she gets home that evening happily exhausted and dutifully takes off her make up, she notices that her skin is pink. It's not a terrible burn, but she definitely got too much sun. What the heck, she thinks? I put on sunscreen and tried to stick to the shade when I could!


The summer sun is all pervasive my friend. It is sneaky as it sends its rays to break down your vital DNA.


But don't fret, I have some tips on how to use your SPF correctly to make sure you're staying as protected as possible.


Tip 1. Make sure you're using enough sunscreen.

Well, how much sunscreen is enough sunscreen? As a caveat, everyone has a different sized face, however a great rule of thumb is a quarter sized amount for your face and neck and an ounce (a shot glass full) for your whole body.


What about spray or powder SPF types? Thank you so much for the excellent segway for my next tip:


Tip 2. Aerosol SPFs don't give great coverage.

Have you ever spray painted something? It is so difficult to get even coverage, especially over something that isn't flat and has curves. You my friend, are not two dimensional (no matter what your stupid ex says) and therefore have curves. And it's even harder with aerosol SPF because it's CLEAR. You can't even tell what areas you've covered well and what areas are practically bare.


This is why I recommend using a liquid SPF. Your body can't just soak up the SPF and disperse it evenly. You are only protected where the SPF is physically on your skin, so aerosols tend to give a 50 SPF protection on the easy to spray places like the front of your legs, a 10 SPF on the back of your legs that you can just barely reach, and nothing on that ridiculously hard to reach space between your shoulder blades.


It's a similar predicament with make up that has SPF...


Tip 3. Don't rely on your make up's SPF

It's not that the SPF in make up is bad. It's that you're not getting enough of it, I guarantee it.


If you put a quarter sized amount of foundation on your face, you would feel so greasy. And if you used enough of the powder SPF, so very dry and cakey.


So, my advice is not necessarily to stay away from SPF added foundations, primers and BB/CC creams, but just think of it as a little extra protection. It's like the big ditch that surrounds the tiger's enclosure at the zoo. It's going to slow them down, but it really is the 25 foot fence that keeps you safe.


PS, this applies to SPF moisturizers too, because a blueberry sized amount of moisturizer is what you should be using. Not a quarter.


Tip 4. Reapply at the proper times.

This is the biggest misunderstanding about SPF IMHO. Sunscreen does not last all day. And the amount of time you need to reapply will differ from person to person, even if you're using the exact same product. This is because the formula used to determine how long the sunscreen will protect you depends on your skin's unique reaction to the sun.


Let's breakdown what SPF means in order to understand.


SPF is the "sun protection factor". And from our 5th grade math class we know that "factor" is an answer to a multiplication problem, therefore, we know that we have to bust out our TI-81's here.


A SPF factor of 30 gives you 30 times more protection than going bare. So to put that equation to personal use, you need to know about how long it takes your skin to react to the sun without any sunscreen. (Please don't go sit in the sun with a timer.) Most people highly overestimate the time it takes for their skin to react. And what do I mean by react? Any reaction. Redness or tanning.


This will depend on how much protective melanin your skin has. For the sake of science, I'll use 10 minutes. This doesn't sound like a lot, but just think of standing outside with no shade under the Texas sun and let me know when you think your skin is going to start telling you to find a tree already.


So we take your base of 10 minutes and multiply that by 30 which gives you 300 minutes. That means, with no other variables, you need to reapply every 5 hours. DON'T STOP READING HERE.


Life has variables.


Like sweat. And water from the sky. And water from the lakes. And swipes from fingers. And rubs from clothing.


Meaning if you're in the water, near the water, sweating from the heat of the outdoors, or have anything touching your skin, your sunscreen will come off prematurely. So you will need to reapply sooner.


So if you're working in an air conditioned to a nice 72 degrees office, working a desk job that requires no physical exertion, AND you never touch your face, you need to reapply every 5 hours.


If you're outside enjoying a cruise on a boat in the heat of the day, like the amazing woman from our previous example, you probably need to be reapplying your sunscreen every 2-3 hours. Yeah, really.


And there you have it: 4 things you can do to make sure you're doing the very best to get the most protection with your sunscreen.


Sunscreen is a drug (no seriously, it's classified as an OTC drug by the FDA), and you have to use it properly for it to be effective. Just like an antibiotic, for example. If you put an oral form on top of the wound, its not going to do anything. You have to ingest it. And you have to ingest it at the right times. You can't just take the whole bottle the first day. And you can't wash it down with a glass of milk.


You gotta follow all the rules to make it work right. I hope you go out and enjoy the beautiful world out there, and I hope these tips help you enjoy it with healthy skin in mind!


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