I’m not going to tell you to use sunscreen every day. I know you know it.
But, are you doing it right? I often hear my friends proudly say they only applied a thin layer or mixed their sunscreen with lotion. It makes me want to scream.
They have no idea, but they’ve just made their sunscreen useless. Sunscreen is a serious business with its own rules. Break them at your peril.
But what if you break them without knowing it? After all, so much of the common sunscreen advice is wrong.
Time to bust some myths, me think. Here are some common misconceptions about sunscreen set right:
1. Is it ok to apply only half the recommended amount of sunscreen?
No. No. No. No. No.
I know, 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen (the recommended amount for the face only) is a lot. But, if you apply less, you’ll cut down your sun protection by a lot.
How much? Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University, puts it like this: “if you apply half the amount, you get the protection of only the square root of the SPF“.
Translation: apply half the recommended amount of SPF 70 and you get only SPF 8.4!
That’s way less than SPF 15, the minimum recommended by derms. Pile on that teaspoon, ladies!
2. Can I mix sunscreen with a lotion?
Nope (Ok, I’m starting to annoy myself with all these no nos, but hear me out).
I get it. Some sunscreens are greasier than a frying pan. Others make you look like Caspar The Ghost, which isn’t the best of looks even at Halloween…
Mixing sunscreen with your moisturizer seems like the perfect solution. But, there’s a huge problem with this.
It dilutes your sunscreen. If, for example, you mix a SPF 25 sunscreen with a moisturizer, you can end up with SPF 10… or lower. There’s no way to know for sure.
That’s dangerous. Cos you’re thinking you’re so well protected and next thing you know, you’ve got a sunburn. And why are those wrinkles creeping up on your face so soon?
Don’t do it.
3. Can I use only sunscreen and skip the moisturizer?
It depends (see, I don’t say no all the time. 🙂 ).
If you have dry skin, I don’t recommend it. Your skin is thirsty for moisture and it’s unlikely any sunscreen will satisfy it.
You have more luck with this if you have oily skin. If your skin produces enough moisturizing oil (a.k.a. sebum) on its own, you can get away with skipping the moisturizer and putting on only the sunscreen.
How do you know the sunscreen’s enough? Listen to your skin. If you’ve skipped the moisturizer and your skin starts to feel tight and uncomfortable, you know you need to put it back into your skincare routine.
4. If I use cosmetics with SPF can I skip the sunscreen?
Ok, I’m going back to being an annoying headmistress and tell you, no way.
Cosmetics with SPF don’t offer adequate protection. Think about it: you need to apply 1/4 of a teaspoon of sunscreen to get the level of SPF stated on the bottle.
It’s the same for moisturizers, foundations, powders etc. You need to pile on at least 7 layers of foundation and 14 of powder to get the stated SPF. Who does that?!
You can try, but after the second layer, the powder’s gonna look cakey. Do your skin a favour and use a separate sunscreen.
5. Can I use my child’s sunscreen?
Yes, you totally can.
You’d think that sunscreens for kids are gentler but the truth is, they use the same ingredients as sunscreens for adults!
Sunscreens for kids and adults are the same, but companies try to convince us they are different to make us buy the same product twice. It’s just another marketing technique.
Dr. Neal Schultz, a cosmetic/medical dermatologist in NYC confirms it: “To my knowledge there is no difference between sunscreens made for children and sunscreens made for adults and conversely children can use adult sunscreen.”
P.S. If you’re looking for a gentle sunscreen that can be used on babies, too, check out my fave picks here.
6. Can I make my own sunscreen at home?
That’s a very bad idea.
Sunscreen is a very delicate thing. You can’t just find a recipe online, buy a few ingredients and become a sunscreen pro.
You need to understand what UV filters work well together, at what concentrations they are most effective, put the right preservative system in place… and a gazillion other things. Make a mistake and you’ve compromised its effectiveness.
But, let’s say that you go ahead and make one anyway. How the heck are you going to test if it really works? By slathering it all over your skin and not getting burned?
That can simply mean you didn’t spend enough time outdoors to get a sunburn. But, it can’t tell you if you’re protected by UVA rays and the wrinkles they cause.
Bottom line: without adequate testing, you can’t tell the level of SPF your sunscreen has. If you don’t know that, how can you protect your skin safely?
Make all the DIY moisturizers and masks your heart desires. But when it comes to sunscreen, leave it to the experts.
Did you fall for any of these myths? Let me know in the comments (don’t be shy – we all did!).