Beauty | 07.10.2022

The #1 Way to Look Younger (That You’re Overlooking) 

Woman in a Straw Hat Applying Sunscreen at the Beach

By Franki Hanke

With proper sunscreen usage, skin ages 24% less. That’s right. The secret to your youngest-looking skin is actual younger skin. That isn’t to say it’s too late. In fact, sunscreen usage minimized skin aging within 4.5 years for participants in that study, as described in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Sunscreen won’t undo what’s there, but it will minimize anything further. 

There’s a secret caveat to this claim though. 

Most people are wearing sunscreen wrong. 

How Sunscreen Protects Your Skin

We see the short-term power of the sun when we get a sunburn, but even if you never burn, the sun is still impacting you. The real fear of sun damage is at the cellular level.

Photoaging, caused by UVA and UVB light, penetrates the skin and causes most of the noticeable signs of skin aging. 

Dermatologist Nancy Samolitis, MD said, “Damage from UV rays is the main culprit in the signs that we recognize as premature aging. The most common signs that I am referring to are wrinkles, dullness, brown spots, and uneven pigmentation. If you don’t believe me, take a look at skin that doesn’t get as much sun exposure like on the buttocks, and tell me if you see any wrinkles and brown spots there,” as quoted by Allyson Payer for Yahoo

In more severe instances of sun exposure, skin cancer (or melanoma) is a concern. Sunscreen use protects both the appearance and skin texture of your skin and minimizes the risk of cancer. 

Measuring out the the amount of sunscreen every day can help train yourself to wear the right amount.

How to Properly Use Your SPF

Even if sunscreen is an important step in your daily skincare routine, you’re probably not using enough. On average, people underapply by 25%. For your face alone, you need over a half teaspoon of product. In hand, that’s about the size of a nickel. 

Remember, that sunscreen should always be broad-spectrum to shield both UVA and UVB light. 

TIP: To train yourself, try measuring out your sunscreen with an actual teaspoon so you can see and feel the proper amount until you’re blind-measuring the right amount. 

Once you’re wearing sunscreen, you’re not done for the day. For proper protection, you need to re-apply. If you’re inside most of the day, schedule your first re-application when you go outside. When you’re actively outside (or in the car), re-apply often. 

Now, you might have learned to re-apply every to three hours, but in a UK study, they concluded that reapplication every 15 to 30 minutes is better! 

Researchers wrote: “Typically reapplication of sunscreen at 20 minutes results in 60% to 85% of the ultraviolet exposure that would be received if sunscreen were reapplied at 2 hours.” So, in other words, by re-applying sooner you’re cutting down your sun exposure by 15% to 40%. 

TIP: Own a variety of sunscreen options throughout your routine so you’re often reminded to re-apply and have an appropriate product to use. 

When you’re learning new habits, it’s hard to adjust, but a solid sunscreen routine will protect your skin. 

The Best Sunscreens to Use

Now, if you’re applying so much sunscreen, it needs to be both a good protector and an enjoyable product to use. Don’t worry. We’ve curated them for you. 

Here are our favorites for every different sunscreen situation. 

Note: you’ll find our recommendations lean towards the heavier end of the SPF spectrum. That’s because the common advice that anything over SPF 30 is overkill is wrong. In fact, higher SPF ratings (like SPF 50+) do correlate with better protection. Though in the study mentioned at the start of this article, those participants saw improvements while using an SPF 15, so any amount is helpful, but we say bigger is better. 

For Morning Application

For your first, daily application, include sunscreen in your usual makeup or skincare routine. 

Under Your Makeup – EltaMD Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

As a base-layer sunscreen product, this Zinc Oxide formula, which is slightly more effective than titanium dioxide, provides protection from UVA and UVB rays in a lightweight formula. It’s thin enough to sit well under your makeup while adding a strong base of defense. 

Reviews say, “This is by far the best facial sunscreen I have ever used. It’s so lightweight, completely matte, has no white cast, and works beautifully under makeup.”

SHOP ON AMAZON FOR $37

For Your Body – Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion

Even as a passionate writer of sunscreen-based advice, I’ll admit I struggled sometimes with sunscreen on my entire body. It felt greasy. It slimed up my hair. I didn’t like it. Not until I found my holy grail body sunscreen. It applies like a lotion and feels moisturizing and smooth, but has the protection of an SPF 50 sunscreen. Apply on all your exposed skin for sun protection and hydration in one. 

Reviews say, “I was looking for a sunscreen I could wear daily, so something that had good protection but would feel more like moisturizing lotion and not think and greasy like usual sunscreen. This is perfect!”

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In Your Makeup – Colorescience Total Protection Face Shield Tinted Moisturizer

This lightweight, the mineral formula provides broad-spectrum defense (against UVA and UVB rays). That’s why it’s one of our favorite beauty products for women over 40. In addition, it has a light tint available in its original peach for smoothing light skin tones, glow for adding luminosity, and bronze for adding warmth and depth. This two-in-one is great for sensitive skin types that don’t take well to layered products as it combines sunscreen with a tint. 

Reviews say, “I have been on a never-ending quest for a pure mineral sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast on my face. I think this one nailed it.” 

SHOP ON AMAZON FOR $39

Woman reapplying sunscreen to her hands.

For Re-Application

In Your Car – Cetaphil Sunscreen Stick & Supergoop Glow Stick

The trick to re-applying often is to stash sunscreen all over. If you hop in the car a few hours after applying your morning sunscreen, your shoulders, arm, and chest are getting intense exposure through your driver-side window because most car windows don’t block UVA rays. 

So, stash some stick-based products in your car that are easy to apply with any overspray or oily hands afterward. 

For the body, we like Cetaphil’s Sunscreen Stick for its SPF50 rating and lightweight protection. This is easy to smear onto any exposed skin. The best part? It’s super affordable, so don’t be stingy with it! 

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For a lil extra treat, opt for the dry oil texture of Supergoop’s Glow Stick. Similarly convenient packaging allows for one-hand application, but this thin, light formula adds a hydrated dew to the skin too. This is one of our favorites for a travel bag too. 

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In Your Purse – Sunbum Hand Cream

Don’t forget your hands or you’ll have fine lines and age spots there. Especially with frequent hand-washing, a dedicated hand product is the easiest way to ensure they stay protected. This cream combines a fast-absorbing lotion with broad-spectrum sunscreen. 

Reviews say, “Hands take such a beating but I beat that using this SunBum hand cream that smells like summer in the tropics. The texture is so rich, thick, and creamy that a little goes a long way to effectively hydrate my hands.”

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In Your Go Bag – La Roche Posay Spray Lotion

With a high SPF 60 rating and an ultra-light texture, the La Roche-Posay spray is not your sticky, beach-only sunscreen. This is a comfortable, daily sunscreen for by your back door or in your adventure bag for applying across your entire body (face included) before you go outside. The spray nozzle allows for even coverage over your entire body. 

Reviews say, “The single best sunscreen I’ve ever used. Amazing protection, with no greasiness or stickiness. It’s pricey, but worth every penny.”

SHOP ON AMAZON FOR $27

The moral of the story: wear sunscreen. Sunny mornings or cloudy days, just wear it. But more than just wearing it, re-apply it! 

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