The Sun’s Rays Are Out All Year. Here are Sun Facts & Products That Can Save Your Skin & Your Life


SUN FACTS:  True or False?

The new SPF regulations don’t make any difference

Sunscreens are always going to make my face break out

Sun protection is pretty much all the same

If I wear a facial product (e.g. tinted moisturizer) with SPF in it, I’m well protected

It’s cloudy (or I’m just going outside for a few minutes) so I can skip the SPF protection

The Summer is over, so I don’t need to wear sun screen anymore

If you answered “False” to all of these, you got 100%!

By now, unless you are truly living in darkness, or just emerged, Rip Van Winkle style, from a cave after a 100-year snooze, you know that what you can’t see CAN hurt you, when it comes to the sun’s damaging rays.  And even if the cookouts are over and the kids are back to school, you know that you should wear sun screen on a daily basis, and replenish it during the day.  But are you really doing the best you can for your skin?   At an event featuring Dermotologist  Dr. Jeanette Graf, and later, in discussions with my own dermatologist, Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, I tried to make some sense of sun protection, and how you can take care of your skin and protect it from the sun’s damaging rays, all year long.

Let me start breaking this important but somewhat complicated topic, down to size (you might want to share this feature and save the url for future refrence):

sun01What’s UVA and UVB?  UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.   UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.  UVA rays are Low Energy/ Long Wavelength (400 – 315 nm) and are the same all year round.  UVB rays are   High Energy/• Medium Wavelength (315 – 280 nm). They are the ones that cause sunburn, and have higher levels in the summer


What is SPF?   SPF means: “Sun Protection Factor.”  It is a numeric measure of the amount of time you can spend in the sun before it will show signs of redness when exposed to UVB light. For example, an SPF of 15 screens out about 93% of the sun’s damaging UV rays; an SPF 30 screens out 98% of UV rays. There are sun screens I’ve seen that are SPF 80 and above, but just because the SPF number is much higher than 30 doesn’t mean that the protection goes up, exponentially (an SPF of 30 should be sufficient for most people, for most activities). Some people just go for the highest SPF, but that’s not always the best choice as some people can be sensitive to sun of the ingredients in sun protection. Pick what works best for your skin.

scala ribbon hat the tres jolieTan Skin is Not Protected:  Despite the look of a golden tan or deep skin tone, being “brown” doesn’t mean you can’t burn or worse, develop skin cancers. Worse, self-tanners and bronzers do not provide any protection against the sun’s rays,  unless an SPF is specifically mentioned. You must apply or use a sunblock or sunscreen that has an SPF rating (UPF if you are talking about clothing–this styllish Scala Collezione Hat with Protection from Dorfman Pacific can shield your face with the equivalent sun protection of SPF 50). This is true,  whether you look tan or have a dark complexion, , or not. Most experts suggest that you use a product with at least SPF 15 (I personally go for SPF 30). 

Apply Sun Protection Properly, and Regularly:  There is some confusion about how much sun protection you need to apply to your entire body to truly protect it, but it is a lot more than you think it is — at least one full ounce. Any part of your body including ears, lips and scalp that is not covered by a hat or dense, dark clothing, needs to be covered. And that’s just for starters.  You’ll need to re-apply it again within the amount of time suggested on the product packaging, and more often if you are perspiring, are very active, are rubbing your skin, or are exposed to water. There are sweat and water-resistant types of products as well, but these still must be re-applied at regularly intervals.  Choose what is right for you, depending upon the environment and activity you’re going to be doing. 

 Read the Labels:  *Not all sunsafe products are appropriate for every skin type or condition. Some common sun protection ingredients may cause irritation in some people.  Read the labels carefully, learn about the ingredients, and and consult with your doctor if you are unsure whether a product is right for you. AND:  check the expiration dates, as sun protection products can lose their efficiency, with age.  It is best to toss anything more than six months old. If any product has changed in consistency or smell, toss it immediately. 

Chemical or Physical?  You can choose from chemical sunscreens that reduce UV light penetration through the epidermis of your skin by absorbing UV radiation within specific wavelength ranges, or use a physical sunscreen agent that minimizes UV penetration by creating an epidermal physical barrier that reflects, scatters and even partially absorbs and/or blocks UV and visible radiation. As Dr. Graf told me, Physical Sunscreen (Mineral Based) include;  Titanium Dioxide abd  Zinc Oxide. Chemical Sunscreens are known by names such as:  Avobenzone,  Octinoxate,  Octisalate,  Homosalate, and  Octocrylene

mother with kids and sun blockApply as directed: Some sun-protection ingredients may take as long as a half and hour to bind with your skin and properly protect you. Keep in mind that the sun hits everywhere you are exposed, so don’t just apply product on legs, lips, arms, neck, back, chest & front of body but also where your bathing suit or pants line is (if you’re reaching or bending over), and on your ears, inside of knees and arms, front and back of feet, and your hairline (and the exposed areas of your head, if you are bald or balding).

 SunSafe Tips For Men: Daily shaving opens up your new skin to sun damage unless you wear a sunscreen or sunblock. Buy a fresh product (not the one that’s been sitting in your drawer since your last beach vacation 2 years ago) and apply it properly (enough product to protect yourself).  Balding men leave the top of their heads constantly exposed to the sun, which also causes flaking, irritation, and redness. SPF sprays give your head a  thorough (but light) coating. Otherwise, wear a hat if you’re going to be outdoors for any length of time. And EVERYONE should wear good quality sun glasses to prevent damage to the eyes, headaches, and premature wrinkles. 

FOR EVERYONE:  Check your skin regularly for unusual moles or skin changes, and see a dermatologist immediately if you find any.  A quick check could save your life.

Now that you’ve gotten the basics about sun protection, the good news is that you can get (and often, layer) a variety of products with sun protection in them that are not traditional sun screens. These come in a dizzying array of types, from soaps and moisturizers, to hair products, color cosmetics,  skin treatments and more.  When it comes to serious sun protection from sun screens, you can find them  in all sorts of formulas too, including: lotions, gels, powders, sprays but some have fragrance, some don’t.

Dr. Jeanette Graf offered a lot of suggestions for how to deal with sun protection, and basic skin care.   For example, you already know that if you applied your skin screen at 8AM and now you’re heading out to eat lunch with some friends at an outdoor venue, that you should re-apply your sun screen. But if you’ve put on all of your makeup and don’t want to wash it off and start all over again, or you’re rushing to enjoy a full hour of sunlight before retiring back into your florescent-lit office, what can you do?avene
Dr. Graf  did mention that some makeup formulations don’t work well with (over or under) foundation.  And if you are wearing a product with SPF during the day, you either have to re-apply it over what you already have on, or start all over again. No makeup that contains SPF is enough by itself to protect your skin, but you can use  makeup with SPF as an extra layer of daily insurance over a moisturizer with UVA/UVB broad spectrum protection, or use a product (like the Avene compact one above, that lets you just layer on top of what you are already wearing). If that is something you just wont’ do, there is an easy and chic solution: Avene’s High Protection Tinted Compact SPF 50 ($32.00). This tinted mineral cream (good for all skin types) in a compact form makes it easy to minister tint to your face, and then you can just re-apply a bit of it on top of your existing base of foundation without having to wash and re-do.  It comes in a creamy formula that dries without feeling heavy or greasy in Beige (light) or Honey (medium deep).

The formula is fairly sheer, but you can layer for more intensity. The formula also provides your skin with some  powerful antioxidant protection, and you get the benefit of a formula featuring Avène Thermal Spring Water to soothe and soften you skin.  If you want to protect your skin against the sun’s UVA/UVN rays with an excellent SPF of 50 (thanks to 4.9% zinc oxide and 18% titanium dioxide), this is the easy and glam way to get it. It’s great for travel since it is in a creamy solid form and it’s  even recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for active use.

glytone spray mist sunscreenAnother high SPF product that I really like is the Glytone Suncare Spray Mist Sunscreen SPF 50+ that is water resistant for up to 80 minutes  ($39.00 for 6 fl. oz.)  thanks to actives: 3% Avobenzone; 10% Homosalate; 5% Octocrylene; and 5% Octisalate. I personally always go for a spray when I need to cover my body with good SPF protection and I’m going to be re-applying it during the day.  Sprays are easy to apply and they’re usually lightweight and dry quickly. If you don’t like slathering lotion on your skin and having to rub it in, or you can’t reach certain place on your body alone, a spray can get the job done well. But unlike creams and lotions, a spray spreads itself less predictably than if you’re personally putting it on your skin, so you might miss a spot, or not use enough. But that being said, you can miss plenty of spots with a lotion, too.  This Glytone spray sun screen product is serious sun protection that guards against sunburn and giving you full UVA & UVB  and antioxidant protection in an oil and fragrance-free formula.It won’t clog your pores, and it’s pretty water resistant.  It does have alcohol, which can dry out and irritate some skin types, but that’s not going to be an issue for most people. Just be sure to apply it  generously and evenly (about 4-6 inches from your skin) onto every part of your body body 30 minutes before sun exposure and every two hours and after towel drying, swimming or perspiring. If you want to use this on your face as well, you can. Just spray it onto your hands first, not directly on your face.  detail_sun_sunscreen_lotion_SPF40_01*Glytone also makes some nice suncreen lotions, including a very nice and pleasant to use, PABA-free mineral based lotion SPF 40 ($37.00 4 fl. oz.)  that is also water resistant up to 40 minutes, with actives of 7.4% Octinoxate; 2% octisalate, and 7.65% inc oxide.  For more information on these, and other Glytone products, visit and you can get Glytone products at, and

loreal cc cream

One of my new favorite product is an inexpensive but effective and beautifying  Visible Lift Color & Correct Cream (CC Cream)  by L’Oreal (Srp. $12.95). A dime-sized amount is all you need to start the day off, beautifully and with SPF 20 protection. You’ll get color and tone correction in a lightweight, nourishing formula with Vitaminc C and Calcium, that covers softly and won’t feel greasy or make you break out.  It also reduces  the look of dark spots and subtly brightens your complexion. You can find L’Oreal’s CC cream in your favorite mass market retailer or drug store, or visit

I also inquired about a sun protection problem that plagues me personally —  some sun blocks and creams make me break out even though they are protecting my skin.  Dr. Gerstner suggests if this is an issue, use oil-free formulations that are meant for the face. A product that is marked:  “non-comedogenic” is what you want to look for.   Both Dr. Graf and Dr. Gerstner also suggest that retinol/retin-A is an important part of a skincare routine, but since the product makes skin more sensitive to the sun, Dr. Graf and Dr. Gerstner insist that someone using exfoliating products including glycolics and Retinol/Retin-A use plenty of sun protection.   Retinol targets everything from acne to Fine lines, Wrinkles, Hyperpigmentation, Loss of collagen,  and elasticity.  You can get these in more powerful strengths from a dermatologist by prescription but also in over the counter strengths. Both work, one might just take a little longer, but if your skin is very sensitive, a less powerful strength is a good place to start until your skin gets used to the product. And on general facial products for sensitive skin, Dr. Graf responded, “Products which are specifically designed for sensitive skin such as Avene which is based on soothing thermal spring waters, are a good choice.”  The Advice Sisters think so, too!

 Dr. Jeannette Graf (@ask_drgraf) is  a board certified dermatologist with a lot of experience and skill.  Dr. Graf is the best-selling author of Stop Aging, Start Living, and a go-to media resource for cutting edge expertise on dermatology, cosmetic injectables, and skin sciencea. She also has a skincare line sold on HSN.





Gervaise Gerstener (@DrGerstner)  is my personal doctor in NYC. She is a board certified dermatologist who has had her own practice for over a dozen years. Dr. Gerstner 
is acclaimed worldwide for her pioneering expertise with Fraxel® laser treatments. Her skill with a range of lasers allows her to serve as a preceptor and lecturer for this state of the art skin resurfacing treatment. As you can see from the photo, she is also incredibly glamorous, and she’s a L’Oreal Paris Skin Care Expert.  “Skincare is so personal, because everyone’s needs are different,” she says.

Do you have a favorite sun protection tip? Please share it with The Advice Sisters!

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Alison Blackman is a beauty, fashion and lifestyles writer, editor and consultant. Her focus is on advice, beauty, fashion, lifestyles, relationships and things that help make life easier, more successful and more on http://www. & her relationship advice site Find & Follow Alison on popular social media (Icons to the right of the AdviceSisters Logo). If you like what you see, it's easy to like & share with social media icons at the top and bottom of each page.


  1. […] or you’ve been sunburned (and you know you shouldn’t do that either–read this very important Advice Sisters feature on Sun Protection with more advice from Dr. Graf), or you’ve shaved your legs right before you plan to exfoliate, all of these are not good […]

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