Published on November 17, 2011
The sun is responsible for many signs of aging, and protecting your face from its rays helps keep your skin looking younger. That doesn't mean you need to wear a heavy beach sunscreen every day — the right cosmetics can also protect your skin.
Protecting your skin from the sun is one of the most important things you can do to keep your skin looking younger, longer. But it doesn't mean you have to slop heavy, sticky sunscreen on your face every morning. You can get excellent day-to-day sun protection from your cosmetics.
Photoaging is caused by lifetime sun exposure — and that's not just the few days you spend at the beach every summer. Walking your dog, driving to work, and sitting in front of a sunny window are all examples of the type of sun exposure that you might not think of protecting yourself against — but over the years they can add up to wrinkling, leathering and other signs of aging, as well as skin cancer.
For this everyday exposure, cosmetics with the proper ingredients, applied the right way, can protect your skin.
First, select a sunscreen-containing moisturizer. Look for a product labeled "broad-spectrum" that has an SPF rating that is 15 or higher. The package, should include a list of active ingredients. Look for zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) or ecamsule (Mexoryl) combined with octocrylene and avobenzone. These are the most cosmetically elegant, long-lasting broad-spectrum sunscreen ingredients found in moisturizers.
After cleansing your face in the morning, apply the moisturizer to your face, and also to your ears, neck, and upper chest. The latter are often-overlooked areas in terms of sun protection, but are equally susceptible to photoaging.
The delicate skin around your eyes needs protection as well, but most moisturizers are not recommended for use in the eye area. Eye creams that contain an SPF are available from some manufacturers, and should be applied during the moisturizing step of your morning routine.
Your second line of skin defense can be found in your foundation. When choosing a foundation, look for one with an SPF rating between 8 and 15. While this may seem like overkill, the truth is that most people do not get the most out of their sunscreen because either they do not apply enough of it, or they apply it unevenly. Two applications of cosmetics that contain a sunscreen will increase your chances of getting good protection.
Top off your foundation with powder. Your powder should be of the compressed variety, and applied with a sponge. The benefits of powder are twofold: The tiny pigmented talc particles it contains provide a certain amount of protection on their own, and applying a layer of powder will help both your sunscreen and your moisturizer stay put through the day. Once the sunscreen is off your skin — washed away by perspiration or your own skin oils, or simply wearing off — it won't protect you any longer.
Complete your routine with your usual makeup, and don't forget the lips. Lips have almost no melanin (the color is derived from tiny blood vessels beneath the skin) and so it's up to you to protect them. If you don't regularly wear lipstick, get in the habit of using a colorless lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. If lipstick is part of your makeup regimen, avoid the super-shiny, high-gloss lipsticks with little pigmentation. These act like baby oil for the lips, directing damaging UV rays right to the area you're trying to protect. An opaque lipstick will provide better protection. Try to find one you like with an SPF rating of 15 or higher. If you're wedded to the wet look, apply the colored lipstick first, then top with a gloss for shine.
It's important to keep in mind that cosmetics should not be used as the sunscreen component of your comprehensive sun protection regimen when you are going to be out in the sun for a long time. For those times, you'll need a heavier, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of fifteen or higher, and you'll need to reapply it every two hours. If you're playing sports or swimming, find one that is water-resistant, and remember to reapply more often if you're sweating or after toweling off. And for your lips, definitely keep a lip-specific sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on hand, and reapply it every two hours, just as you would your regular sunscreen.
Cosmetics can go a long way in protecting your face against UV damage. But sunscreen is only one element of skin cancer prevention. Following our guidelines is the best way to protect your skin and help keep it looking youthful for years to come.