Should You Use a Different Sunscreen on Your Face?

Every time you step outside, your unprotected skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Even if it’s overcast or you’re only outdoors for a short time, your skin absorbs these harmful rays and sustains some degree of cellular and structural damage.

Skin that’s frequently exposed to UV light — including the skin on your face, neck, and hands — is more susceptible to sun damage, skin cancer, and premature aging.

Facial skin care specialist Craig A. Foster, MD, FACS, knows that healthy skin begins with a consistent daily care routine that emphasizes protection. Here’s how the right sunscreen can help you maintain a youthful-looking complexion for years to come. 

Sunscreen and skin protection 

You already know that UV light exposure is a skin cancer risk, but did you know that it’s also the primary driver of premature skin aging? Incredibly, up to 90% of the early signs of aging you see on your face and other areas of sun-exposed skin are a product of UV damage. 

Premature skin aging — also known as photoaging — can impair skin cells and undermine the structures that make your skin strong and resilient. Inconsistent skin tone, dark spots, fine lines, and irregular skin texture are common signs of photoaging. 

You can minimize your exposure to UV light by wearing protective clothing and staying in the shade when you’re outside. You can block penetrating UV radiation by applying sunscreen to exposed areas of skin — particularly your face and neck — every day.

Three basic sunscreen essentials

A trip down the sunscreen aisle can feel overwhelming. Along with lotions, sprays, creams, and gels of varying SPFs, there are countless differences among the products that make it hard to determine which ones you should really consider. 

No matter what else you look for in a sunscreen, it should offer three basic qualities:

Daily use of a sunscreen that offers these three essentials significantly reduces your skin cancer risk. It also provides significant protection against photoaging to help you maintain soft, smooth skin that’s uniform and resilient.

Sunscreen types and formulations

Just as there are countless types of sunscreen, there are various formulations designed for specific applications. As you’d expect, facial sunscreens have certain characteristics that make them different from the kind of sunscreen you’d slather on your body at the beach. 

Body and facial sunscreens are available in chemical, physical, and combination formulas

Chemical sunscreen absorbs into your skin where it soaks up incoming UV rays, converts them into heat, and releases them from your body. Physical sunscreen creates a barrier that blocks UV light so it can’t penetrate your skin. Combination formulas provide both forms of protection. 

Physical sunscreens tend to feel heavy and leave a white cast on your skin. While they’re great for a day in the sun, they’re less ideal for daily use on delicate facial skin.

The right sunscreen for your face

For everyday use on your face and neck, you want a sunscreen that feels lighter and is easy to apply. A cosmetic moisturizer that contains sunscreen may be a good option, but only if it offers the essentials (SPF 30 or above, broad-spectrum protection, and water resistance). 

A cream sunscreen that offers chemical or combination protection is ideal for daily facial use. Use a stick sunscreen on the skin around your eyes to ensure full coverage, especially if you don’t wear sunglasses that provide full UVA/UVB protection. A lip balm with broad-spectrum protection that’s rated SPF 30 or higher can help protect your lips. 

Next, consider your unique skin challenges. For oily or acne-prone skin, you want a product that won’t clog your pores, so look for the word “noncomedogenic” on the label. If you have dry skin, look for a moisturizing facial sunscreen. 

Avoid sunscreens that contain fragrance, PABA, parabens, or oxybenzone if you have sensitive or allergy-prone skin. If you have rosacea, look for a product that contains only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

If you have questions about the best sunscreen for your face, we can help. Call 212-744-5011 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Foster in our office in Manhattan, New York City, today.

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