Why Sunscreen is the Secret Sauce

by Mar 17, 2022Ageless skin, Skincare, Sun Damage, Sunscreen0 comments

Can you believe that the best tool out there for ageless skin is inexpensive, easy to use and is probably already sitting in your bathroom?

This fabulous secret sauce is sunscreen! Not only does sunscreen prevent sunburn and skin cancer – It can preserve and may even reverse the visible signs of sun damage. A whopping 90% of the visible signs of aging (including hyperpigmentation, broken blood vessels, sagging skin and wrinkles) are caused by sun exposure.


Sunscreens combine several ingredients to help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching your fragile skin. The SPF label only indicates how much UVB protection you are getting.  UVB is what can lead to sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate the skin on a deeper level and can cause leathery skin, wrinkling and brown spots and increases the carcinogenic effects of UVB rays – leading to an increased risk of skin cancer.  Look for the label “broad-spectrum” to make sure it has ingredients that protect against UVA and UVB.


Sun Protective Factor.  It is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging your skin.  Here is how the number of SPF is determined:  If it takes 10 minutes for your skin normally get sunburned, using an SPF 30 sunscreen theoretically prevents sunburn 30 times longer — about 5 hours.  The only problem is that sunscreen does not stay effective longer than 2 hours.  So during that 5 hour period, you would need to be reapplying the SPF 30 every 2 hours.  Another way to look at the SPF is what percentage of rays it is blocking.  SPF 15 filters about 93% of UVB rays, whereas SPF 30 is 97% and SPF 50 can keep out about 98%.  But keep in mind the time of day you are in the sun.  The sun is stronger in the middle of the day compared to early morning and early evening hours. That means your risk of sunburn is a lot higher in the middle of the day. The sun’s intensity is also related to geographic location, with greater sunburn risk at higher altitudes.  So with Boulder, CO at 5430 feet elevation, the sun is much more intense!


So you don’t end up like this guy:

clear trucker.jpg

This is a 69 year old truck driver. He has left sided sun damage from driving a truck for 28 years.  No sunscreen was used here!

Sunscreen is not just for the beach.  Sun damage is cumulative and each minute you get (even driving down the road or walking to lunch) adds to destruction of healthy cells in your skin.

-Sunscreen decreases your risk of skin cancer.  Skin cancer is the #1 form of cancer in the US!

-Using sunscreen sets an example for your kids.

-No excuses, it’s more convenient than ever!  You can choose between creams, sticks, sprays and even powders.  And now that the zinc particles are micronized – there is less of that white mask look.

-It will keep your skin looking youthful and decrease wrinkles and leathery skin



Mineral sunscreens contain either zinc or titanium or both.  The minerals create a barrier between skin and the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them (like the chemical SPFs).  Many brands realize we don’t want white faces and have micronized the mineral particles (sometimes called nanoparticals) to reduce chalkiness.  BTW – if you have heard that the smaller particles are a concern because they might enter the bloodstream and cause harm – this theory has been disproved.  Experts agree that these mineral small particles are safe. Mineral sunscreens are great if you have sensitive skin or worry about absorbing the chemicals in non-mineral SPF.  Zinc is actually a natural anti-inflammatory and believe it or not is the main ingredient in diaper cream for this reason!

Chemical sunscreens use UVB absorbers like homosalate, octisalate or octocrylene in addition to avobenzone, which absorbs UVA rays.  One of the UVB absorbers, oxybenzone, has had a bit of controversy.  It is a chemical that messes with our hormones and may actually increase our risk of skin cancer.  So read those labels!


The simple answer is a broad-spectrum (to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays) that is an SPF 30 or higher.  However, on days that you are mostly inside wear its okay to wear a moisturizer with SPF 15 or 30.  But when you are not inside all day and running around, make sure to wear an SPF of close to SPF 50.  Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t leave the house without sunscreen on my face, neck and chest…everyday.


The one you will use!


Easy to apply and good for squirmy kids.  Make sure you use a lot to fully get coverage and try not to breath it in.  Watch out if you have sensitive skin – a lot of these can be irritating and cause rashes.

Moisturizer with built-in sunscreen:

This is great for everyday and when you are indoors most of the day.  They tend to be lighter and easy to apply with SPFs around 15 and 20.  You will need additional SPF if you plan to spend time outside.

Mineral/Physical Blocks:

These contain zinc or titanium and are perfect for sensitive skin.  They sit on top of the skin and act as a blocker with little to no irritation.  These are especially great if you have melasma.

Sweat/Water Resistant:

The FDA no longer allows the terms “waterproof” or “sweat-proof”.  So you will find only “water-resistant” on the label.  These are made to stay on the skin if you are wet or sweaty – but know that they still have to be applied every 2 hours to be effective.  They are usually formulated with a bit more oil, silicones (like dimethacone), or a film polymer (like sodium polycrylate) to give them the staying power when water is involved.  Interestingly, a study came out recently that found water-resistant sunscreens were less effective in chlorinated pools than in salt water.  The chemicals in the chlorinated water can disintegrate the active ingredients.  Best to reapply after every swim session!


These are the BEST for reapplication.  You can leave one in your purse and reapply before that afternoon hike.


Yes.  They are required by the FDA to last about 3 years.  Check the label for an expiration date.  But realize that they can breakdown with heat.  If you have been leaving the sunscreen in your hot car all summer, it probably needs to be tossed.


Vitamin D is super important for strong bones and a good immune system.  It’s fine to get some of your vit D from the sun’s UV radiation – but limit it and keep your face and chronically exposed areas out of the mix.  The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that you get your recommended daily 600 IU of vit D from food sources like fish and cereals or from supplements.


  • Apply at least 20 minutes before getting into the sun (the chemical ones take that long to absorb).
  • Reapply, reapply and reapply… every 2 hours and after chlorinated pool swims.
  • With sticks, you need to apply 4 passes to get effective protection – so rub that stuff all over!
  • If you have sensitive skin – stick to mineral sunscreens to avoid chemical irritation.
  • Keep sunscreen somewhere convenient – by the front door, in your gym bag or purse.  But avoid keeping in your car so that the heat doesn’t degrade the active ingredients.
  • Make sure to cover your lips – especially your lower lip because it is 12 times more likely to be affected by skin cancer.
  • By the way – I have heard some chatter from sunscreen skeptics and natural-types who feel you can skip sunscreen altogether and use more “natural” oils like coconut, raspberry seed and carrot seed.  But know that these only provide a small protection (about SPF 4) against UVB rays and no protection against UVA.  So best not to count on these when out playing in the sun.