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It’s amazing how something as simple as sunscreen can spark so much debate, confusion, and even overwhelm. We want to do things “right” but what is “right” is not always crystal clear. In reality, I don’t think there is one right way—there are too many variables. Remember, better is the enemy of good. Here are some basic principles to help you make a good choice for your skin.

Why should I wear sunscreen?

Even if it’s winter, or you work in an office, or you’re not going outside, wearing sunscreen should be a daily habit. This is because there are two types of UV light, UVA and UVB. UVB causes sunburns and is mostly present in summer months. We have a vested interest in using sunscreen then, because no one wants to experience the discomfort and unsightly peeling of a burn. But UVA plays an arguably even more important role in causing all signs of aging as well as skin cancers, because we are exposed to it year round without any immediate reason to protect ourselves. UVA is like an x-ray. It passes easily through cloud cover, windows, and light clothing. If you have a window in your office, you are getting lots of UV exposure every day.

What is the best kind of sunscreen?

The best kind of sunscreen is the kind you are happy to wear every day. Technical differences exist between chemical sunscreens (oxybenzone) and barrier sunscreens (zinc or titanium), but they are all effective. In an ideal world, you’d have both types combined in a daily sunscreen, but this is splitting hairs. A more expensive brand is not better at sun protection than a cheap one, because they are all regulated by the FDA and must comply with effectiveness standards. The most important factor in your sunscreen is the consistency with which you apply it, so pick one you like, and you’re good to go.

Do I need to reapply it?

When you will be exposed to UVB rays (in summer) or prolonged exposure to sunlight (reflection off snow during winter sports) you should consider reapplying. But on your normal office work day, I think it’s overkill. It would be asking a lot for not a lot of benefit, and might deter you from wearing sunscreen at all. Put it on with your morning skincare routine, and go about your day knowing you’ve done something great for your future self.

What brand do you recommend?

I personally love the VI Derm daily sunscreen, because it’s mixed chemical and barrier and it is hydrating, but it soaks in and doesn't leave me greasy. Supergoop brand has lots of different formulations if you’re picky about texture and smell. You can test them all at Sephora.

Do I need to wear a moisturizer too?

No. All sunscreens contain moisturizing ingredients (like simethicone) so you don’t need additional moisturizer unless it is indicated by your skin. Even then, I’d recommend switching to an oil cleanser before I’d add a moisturizer. If you’re still dry after sunscreen application, your cleanser is probably too drying (almost all “gentle” cleansers are!). You do want some vitamins in your skin care, but these can be applied at night to keep your routine simple—SPF in morning, vitamins at night.

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