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Ask Us Anything: SPF

Most of us regard sunscreen as a fact of life but know little about how it actually works. For this month’s installment of our crowd-sourced feature, we asked our Facebook fans to tell us what they’ve always wanted know about SPF. The questions came rolling in, and we asked three experts to chime in with the answers.


Q: I’d like to be able to protect my acne-prone skin without clogging my pores. What are some sunscreens I can wear?


A: Hunt down a sunscreen that’s labeled oil-free, non-comedogenic, or non-acnegenic. “This means the sunscreen has been tested and proven not to contribute to the formation of acne lesions,” says Dr. Eric Schweiger of Manhattan’s Clear Clinic. We recommend Skinceuticals Sheer Physical Defense SPF 50 or Scalisi Skincare Anti-Aging Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30. If you also want to shrink pores and refine your skin's texture, look for antioxidants like green tea, vitamin C, or evening primrose extract (found in COOLA’s SPF 30 Matte Finish Cucumber for Face).


Q: I want to know how to layer sunscreens. If my moisturizer has SPF and my foundation does as well, are those sufficient, or do I need a separate sunscreen? Can I combine physical and chemical sunscreens?


A: You need to make sure your products provide adequate protection. Check your labels by following this handy tip from Tracy Aschenbrenner, Supergoop!’s National Director of Business Development: “If a product has been tested for sun protection, the FDA mandates that the word ‘sunscreen’ is legible on the front of the packaging.” Remember: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum of SPF 30. For the right level of protection, it’s best to use a light sunscreen under your makeup. As Dr. Schweiger says, it’s perfectly fine to layer different formulas: “Physical sunscreens work immediately, while chemical blockers need about 30 minutes to be absorbed into skin. Combining the two will give you immediate protection.” Try LAFACE Laboratories Deflection Day Cream SPF 30 and Soleil Organique Environmental Defense Sun Stick SPF 30. You can also opt for a tinted multitasker like Supergoop!®’s Daily Correct SPF 35 CC Cream or CoTZ Face SPF 40.


Q: My routine consists of moisturizer and BB cream, both with an SPF of 45, but I only use about a pea-sized amount of each. How much product do I really need to apply in order to actually benefit from the full, advertised SPF rating?


A: We’re going to assume you’re only referring to your face. In that case, “a nickel-sized amount of either the BB cream or moisturizer—in addition to a pea-sized amount of the other product—is sufficient to receive the full SPF rating,” says Dr. Schweiger. But don’t overlook surrounding regions like your neck, and swipe on an SPF-infused lip balm to keep your lips protected too.

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