MA Beauty: The Once-&-For-All Guide To SPF

Whether or not you actually do it, you know that you should be wearing sunscreen all the time — not just in the summer. It is, without a doubt, the best thing you could do for your skin.

However, aside from that hard-and-fast rule, there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to SPF. How often should you reapply? What’s the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens? Is the SPF in your makeup really enough?

Luckily, we’ve decided to clear things up once and for all. We tapped two dermatologists —Alysa Herman, MD, and Zein Obagi, MD — to talk about all things SPF. Have a big question? We’ve probably answered it ahead. Click through — and then slather thoroughly. Your skin will thank you.

Do you really have to wear SPF every day?
Both of our experts answer with a resounding yes. “People think that if you can’t see the sun outside, you’re not going to get burned,” Dr. Herman says. “Rays still penetrate clouds.”

Dr. Obagi agrees: “You will most likely be exposed to the sun either by being outside, in the car, or by a window,” he says, adding that all of this sun exposure can lead to nasty side effects. “Sun exposure can damage multiple layers of your skin, leading to discoloration, redness, damaged texture, wrinkles, and skin cancer.“

Dr. Herman adds that cumulative sun damage can cause cancer, so it’s important to wear SPF daily. “I tell patients to keep sunscreen near their toothpaste as a reminder,” she says.

Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+, $38, available at Kiehl’s.

What is the minimum SPF you should wear?
“The American Academy of Dermatology recommends broad-spectrum of SPF 30 or higher, which blocks about 97% of the sun’s rays,” Dr. Obagi says. And while the number is important, don’t even think about reaching for a formula without “broad spectrum” printed on the label, which means that the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. (Very important!)

Lancôme Bienfait UV SPF 50+ Super Fluid Facial Sunscreen, $39, available at Sephora.

Is there a difference between SPF 30 and SPF 100?
You know those people who slather on SPF 100? According to Dr. Herman, they might as well be putting on SPF 30. “You only get a minimal jump between SPF 30 and SPF 100,” she says. “It’s about a 3-to-4% increase.”

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