1. You have to really, really love your sunscreen
The texture of sunscreen is just as important as the SPF number on the label.
“We know you won’t apply your sunscreen properly, or as often, if you don’t like how it feels when you put it on,” says Mark Lupin, a Victoria-based dermatologist and director of Cosmedica Laser Centre.
Benjamin Barankin, medical director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre, agrees. “That’s why your pick is critical,” he says. “If a sunscreen is greasy or sticky, forget it. Shop around until you find your favourite.”
2. You’re probably not using enough
Even if you think you’re a sunscreen queen, chances are you’re using too little.
“Studies show that people don’t apply nearly as much as they need to achieve the protection of the number listed on the bottle,” says Barankin. So how much is enough? Dole out at least two tablespoons for your body and half a teaspoon for your face.
Always err on the generous side and don’t forget to top that up during the day. “Reapply at least every two hours when you’re spending time outside,” says Lupin.
3. SPF 30 is almost as good as SPF 100
“Once you get above SPF 30, it’s like splitting hairs,” says Douglas Hamilton, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and creator of the skincare line Deep, which combines vitamin and antioxidant extracts to combat signs of aging and sun damage.
A higher number can offer a marginally greater amount of protection, but that means little if you’re not applying regularly. “The real problem, whether you’re using SPF 30 or higher, is putting it on thickly enough and at frequent enough intervals — otherwise an SPF 30 acts more like an SPF 8.”
To make sure his patients stay “suntelligent” Barankin recommends SPF 45, so that even if you don’t apply enough, you’ll get the equivalent of SPF 30.
4. Your skin’s new bffs are ferulic acid and vitamins C, D and E
To supplement sunscreen, applying vitamins C and E directly to your skin works wonders. They tackle the signs of premature aging, help even out skin tone and moisturize.
“The topical forms of these agents act in two ways — they undo some sun damage, and they provide long-lasting protection,” says Lupin.
“Products that contain vitamins C and E and plant-derived ferulic acid provide the equivalent of SPF 8 and can last for four days.” (Add them to your regimen today and use them daily, since they have a cumulative effect.)
As for vitamin D, multiple studies have found that spending 15 minutes without sunscreen and exposed to the sun can reduce the risk of certain cancers (one study suggests up to 50 percent).
In fall and winter, you’ll have to pop a pill to get your D: Take 1000 IU daily, recommends the Canadian Cancer Society.
5. Clothing is the best block
“The sun can still penetrate bare skin when you’re wearing sunscreen,” Hamilton says. Luckily, clothing can offer an extra layer of protection.
“A pair of jeans provides more than the equivalent of SPF 1000,” says Barankin. “Largeframe sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats are also great options.” Pair them with a cute beach cover-up or a loose top and shorts, and you’re good to go.
6. Even waterproof sunscreen washes off
“It’s a common misconception that ‘waterproof’ means it’ll last all day,” says Lupin.
The truth is, water resistant and waterproof sunscreens aren’t foolproof: You still need to reapply them every two hours.
7. No tan is a “good” tan (and there’s no such thing as a pre-tan!)
“You’re asking for trouble when you tan — whether it’s in a tanning bed or out in the sun,” says Barankin.
“You might be tempted to ‘build up’ your skin’s resistance by doing a pre-tan, but research shows that even a little tan damages the skin.” Use self-tanning lotion to fake that glow — or embrace your natural (healthy) colour.
8. Post-sun rituals are as important as pre-sun ones
“Sunscreens don’t fully protect against the free-radical damage brought on by visible light,” says Hamilton.
“To fight it, you need to apply topical antioxidants at least a half-hour before and after you go out in the sun.”
Hamilton suggests lotions that contain multiple skin-friendly antioxidants and acai and goji-berry extracts.
9. The sun dries out your hair too
If your hair’s brittle and frizzy, UVA and UVB rays may be to blame. They can damage your locks, stealing your shine and hurting the cuticle and inner structure of the hair.
“Too much sun dehydrates hair,” says Barankin. It also burns your scalp, so you must use products that contain sun protection.
“I recommend spraying sunscreen onto your head, especially if you have thinning hair,” says Lupin.
If you’ve already fried your hair, try deep conditioners, masks and moisturizing sprays to help de-stress your sunburned tresses.