The #1 Thing You Can Do to Prevent Signs of Visible Aging

It’s so easy, you will wish you had started doing this sooner!

Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this post. Just links to articles and a video. Enjoy!

Okay, I admit that the headline for this post is a little click-bait-y, but it’s true.

There is something super easy that you can do to prevent signs of visible aging on your skin. It can help prevent cancer. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, and only takes a few minutes a day. Moreover, dermatologists recommend this to all their patients. What is this wonder I speak of?

Sunscreen! Use it! Every. Damn. Day.

Yep. Sunscreen. That’s the big secret. Just about every article you read where dermatologists are asked what their #1 recommendation for fighting and/or preventing the signs of aging are, they all say daily use of a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. You can read about it here, here, and here.

The other big thing every dermatologist says about wearing sunscreen is DO NOT RELY ON THE SPF IN YOUR MAKEUP.

Seriously, just don’t. Most foundations have an SPF of much less than 30. Besides that, most of us don’t apply enough foundation to actually get any sun protection from the SPF in it anyway. Makeup artist Wayne Goss has a great video demonstrating this point.

Another downside of wearing makeup with SPF is that it tends to cause flashback in photos. That may not be a deal breaker for most people, but if you take a lot of selfies using flash, you probably avoid foundations with SPF anyway.

Why is wearing a separate sunscreen so important?

Think of it this way – you probably spend a decent amount of time, effort, and money trying to keep the signs of aging at bay. What good is using that expensive retinol cream and that fancy anti-aging serum if their effects are going to be undone by daily sun exposure? Trust me. You need a separate SPF for your face.

So, what are you supposed to do if you’re not supposed to rely on the sunscreen in your makeup?

Find a sunscreen you like and wear it. Daily.

I freely admit that for many years I absolutely did rely on the SPF in my foundation to protect my skin. It was a false sense of security. The alternative was being a super greasy makeup mess within an hour of putting on my face. Some sunscreens even turned my foundation orange! Not cute!

Sunscreens for the face have come a long way in the past few years. In my 20’s and 30’s, I found most facial sunscreens on the American market to be just awful. They were all thick, heavy-feeling, and goopy. Most American sunscreens I tried just didn’t play nice with makeup. If you had oily skin like me, it was always a choice between protecting your skin or looking put together.

(Keep in mind that in the 90’s and the early Oughts women were expected to wear makeup in the workplace in order to be taken seriously. It’s now the late Teens, and while there’s still an expectation for women to wear makeup in the workplace, I’m finding that a lot of workplaces are expecting it less. There’s still a ways to go yet.)

What’s the right SPF?

Basically you should look for a facial sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. The maximum SPF to look for is 50. The Environmental Working Group (EGW) published a study that showed an SPF higher than 50 doesn’t really give any more sun protection. That is why you no longer see SPF 70 or SPF 100 sunscreens anymore. Talk about a false sense of security!

If you are using a Japanese or Korean sunscreen, they use a PA+ system for their sun protection ratings. PA+++ is pretty darn good, but PA++++ is best. Many Asian sunscreens tend to be light and gel-like in texture, absorb into the skin quickly, and play well with makeup.

What formula should I use?

The best formula is one you like enough to use daily. If you don’t like the texture of the sunscreen, or the way it reacts with your skin skin and/or makeup, you’re not going to use it.

The formula you use will depend a lot on your skin type and your personal texture preference. There are physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. Many of the physical sunscreens contain minerals that block the sun’s rays from getting to your skin. These can also cause flashback in photos. Chemical sunscreens contain chemical formulations that absorb the sun’s rays rather than fully block them. There is some controversy as to which kind is best for your skin and the environment. On this, you will have to do your own research and figure out which is best for you. Here is an article to get you started.

As for the texture of the formula, that is all personal preference. Some sunscreens are like a heavy cream. Others are like a light lotion. Others still are more like a watery gel. What texture you like will depend mostly on your skin type. Since my skin tends to be oily, I prefer the watery gel types of sunscreens. If your skins tends to be on the dry side, a more lotion- or cream-like sunscreen may be good for you.

There is also the option of using a facial moisturizer with SPF. If having to do a separate step just for sunscreen is too much for you, this may be the way to go. Two steps is one is always good. (One of my favorite facial sunscreens is SIX steps in one!) Just make sure the SPF is at least 30.

Do I have to wear sunscreen every day? Even in winter? Even if it’s raining or overcast?

No, you don’t, but you really, really should.

Remember that incidental sun exposure, like the kind you get going from your home to your car, from your car to the office, just driving around – it all adds up over time. The sun still shines in most places in the winter, and your face is usually exposed all year round.

UV rays are still penetrating the clouds on rainy days. Just because you don’t see the sun doesn’t mean you’re not getting UV exposure. And if the rain stops and the sun comes out, you will be glad you put on sunscreen.

You should definitely put on sunscreen on overcast days. People tend to get the worst sunburns on overcast days because they don’t realize how much UV exposure they’re actually getting.

My basic rule on when to apply sunscreen is if I think I may leave the house that day, I put on sunscreen. The last article I linked above says you should put on sunscreen even if you’re staying inside all day. Use your judgement on that one.

Do I need to wear sunscreen if I have a dark complexion?

YES! Having more melanin in your skin means you are less likely to sunburn than someone who is pale, but you still accumulate sun damage. No matter if your skin tone is medium, tan, deep, or dark, everyone from Pale Princesses to Ebony Goddesses needs to be using sunscreen daily. Future You will thank you for it!

Where does sunscreen go in my skincare routine?

Sunscreen should go on after your moisturizer, but before your face primer and/or makeup. I like to give my skincare products a few minutes to sink into my skin before I put on my sunscreen. Then I give my sunscreen a few minutes to sink in before I put on my face primers. (Yes, I multi-prime. I’m extra like that.)

Should I be using sunscreen daily anywhere besides my face?

Definitely! Your neck, chest, décolleté, arms, and the backs of your hands need sun protection, too!

I take what I like to call the “Tits Up” approach to applying sunscreen. What is the “Tits Up” approach, you ask? Raise your arms. It is above your tits? Put sunscreen on it! (I also take this approach to applying skincare.)

Basically, depending on what kind of top I’m wearing that day, I will apply sunscreen everywhere that will be exposed to sun from the top of my tits on up. Wearing a tank top? Definitely apply sunscreen from the tits up, especially on your arms, back, and shoulders. Short-sleeve V-neck t-shirt? Hands, arms, chest, and neck all get sunscreen. Long-sleeve turtle neck? Make sure to get the backs of your hands.

Is wearing sunscreen daily really that important?

Think about it. Why would you put so much time, effort, and money into making sure your face looks young just to let your neck, chest, and hands give away your real age?

The best example I have of this is from when I was waiting tables in a bar years ago. There was more mature lady who would come into the bar regularly, usually dressed to pick up some young thing.

Just from looking at her face, I would have guessed she was maybe in her early 50’s. I could tell she had taken pretty good care of her face over the years. However, her neck, chest, décolleté, and hands told a very different story. They told a story of years of sun bathing and sun burning. Her chest and neck looked like old leather. Her hands looked haggard, mottled, and worn. From that I thought maybe she was closer to her late 60’s. Her real age was probably somewhere in the middle.

If she had taken the same care with the rest of her skin as she had taken with her face, I may not have been able to guess her age at all.

What if I already have sun damage from years of tanning? Is it too late to start wearing sunscreen?

Good Heavens, no! It’s never too late to start protecting your skin from UV rays.

Keep in mind that sunscreen won’t undo previous sun damage, but it will help prevent future sun damage. If you’re using retinol, retinoids, or acids to undo sun damage on your skin, it’s even more important to wear sunscreen daily. Retinol, retinoids, and various acids tend to make skin photosensitive, so you’re even more prone to sun burn than you normally would be. Slather up!

Alright, you’ve convinced me that sunscreens are a necessary addition to my skincare routine. Which ones would you recommend?

How long do you want this post to be? I’ve been rambling about the importance of using sunscreen regularly for a while now.

As for what I recommend, I currently have five favorites that are from Asia and one honorable mention from the US. I think that will be a good subject for next week’s post. I will tell you all about it then.

Do you use sunscreen as a daily part of your skincare routine? If not, why? How do you think facial sunscreens have changed over the years? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!

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