Skip to main content
Skin Care Blogs

Protect Like a Doctor

Protect Like a Doctor
Teresa Greenfeld
Writer and expert9 months ago
View Teresa Greenfeld's profile

We're firm believers that there’s no totally wrong way to use sunscreen; if you’re using it, we’re happy. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: using sunscreen every day, year-round is the best thing you can do for your future skin. It’s the single most effective way to help prevent premature aging, discoloration and most importantly against skin cancer.

That being said, there’s always room for improvement. If we can do better, why not? We snuck in some time with one of Dermstore’s favorite dermatologists, Dr. Ashely Magovern, for some sunscreen 411.

Beyond the face, what SPF products do you recommend for full body protection?

I love EltaMD UV Lotion and UV Sport. I keep them in my summer bag at all times. They are both so easy to use, blend easily, and provide great protection. Using a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide is really important on those summer days because zinc oxide provides protection across the entire UVA/UVB range. La Roche-Posay also makes really elegant sunscreens for the body, like Anthelios 60 Cooling Water-Lotion sunscreen. The organic scalp and hair mist by COOLA is the perfect product for the scalp, part line (we see a lot of skin cancers here), ears and eyelids.

How often should you reapply SPF on your face? What about on your body and scalp?

Generally, we recommend that you reapply SPF every 2 hours (regardless of the body part), but honestly, I think that’s hard to do. If you know you are going to be outside all day (like at the pool, beach, Disneyland), then reapplication every couple of hours is a great idea. If you are just going to work or having a casual day with some outdoor exposure, my recommendation is to make sure that you put a good layer (nice and thick) on in the morning to all the areas that will have exposure. Before you leave the house is always best. If you wear makeup, it’s almost impossible to reapply sunscreen lotion or cream, so this is where the powder brushes and spray mists come in handy.

Should you be using SPF on your hands before a gel manicure?

Yes, it’s a great idea to do this! I think you should put it on before you leave the house for your manicure. Actually, you should probably put sunscreen on your hands every morning while you’re doing your skincare routine. Even though salons use both UV and LED lamps, they both can emit ultraviolet (UVA) radiation, so either wearing sunscreen or fingerless gloves is a good idea during your manicure to protect yourself from the UVA radiation exposure. Luckily, a study in JAMA Dermatology reported that the exposure associated with gel manicures doesn’t pose a big risk for skin cancer, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What about mineral v. chemical sunscreen? Is one better than the other?

Traditionally, the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens depends on the mechanism by which they protect you from the sun. Sunscreens absorb and scatter the UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. They need to be absorbed by the skin, and that’s one of the reasons that it is so important to put sunscreen on before you get to the beach or pool or wherever you are going!

Chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, cinnamates and salicylates, which are very common among sunscreens on the market and are easy to find. They are generally less expensive, but can be more irritating, and some of the ingredients aren’t reef-safe.

Mineral sunscreens (also known as physical sunscreens), on the other hand, sit on top of the skin and block or reflect the sun’s rays. Mineral ingredients include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. I love zinc oxide because it is the only one that protects against the whole range of UVA/UVB spectrum. Most dermatologists prefer physical ones because of this, and also because they're both less irritating and less likely to cause skin allergies. The good news is that they are getting more and more elegant, and aren’t necessarily associated with a white film or residue anymore, but some of them still leave a white cast.

What sunscreens do you keep in your own medicine cabinet?

I love using a tinted mineral sunscreen like SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen on my face every day. Tint is important to help block the blue and fluorescent light.

I use Supergoop!'s (Re) Setting Refreshing Mist SPF40 for weekends and reapplication.

My teenagers love EltaMD's UV Clear. It's amazing for acne-prone skin and the kids love the way it blends in easily. I make my kids put it on before school every day.

I also love ISDIN's products; they have very elegant zinc-containing products with a smart formulation from Spain!

Teresa Greenfeld
Writer and expert
View Teresa Greenfeld's profile

Teresa Greenfeld has worked in fashion and beauty for over 15 years as a writer, editor and content strategist. She has been privileged to work at Carbon38 as a Senior Editor, at as the Fashion and Beauty Director, and has amassed a resume that includes Vogue, Allure and Elle magazines. Her passions include back-to-back sheet masks, reading peer-reviewed papers on skin care, and obsessive sunscreen application. Though born in Manhattan, she currently lives in LA, and will always consider herself a New Yorker at heart.