It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with SPF, now. But I wasn’t always. Like many in their youth, I chased the caramel goddess look to no avail. Instead I was left with burns, scaly skin and no tan to show for it. Fast forward a couple decades, and I’m reaping what I’ve sown. So I encourage you to join me in my SPF obsession, because your credit card and your crepe-y skin will thank you.

Before diving in, let’s set some things straight.

  1. SPF is the No. 1 most effective beauty product on the market. Caveat: it’s effective only at prevention.
  2. It’s never too late to start using sunscreen (just like it’s never too early to drink champagne 😉
  3. It must be applied appropriately and you must be religious about it.
  4. Not all sunscreens are considered equal.
  5. When used regularly, SPF can help prevent a host of skin concerns.

Now please indulge me while I wax poetic about my love for sunscreen.

Why You Should Care

Youth is wasted on the young, and so is youthful skin. I found this little known fact quite appalling:

25% of sun damage happens before the age of 18, and 10% every decade after that.

Tragic, I know. But the silver lining is you can prevent further damage. Enter: Sunscreen. It’s the single most important commitment you can make to keep your skin looking as young as possible. And isn’t that the goal, Darling?

Reason No. 1: UV rays and blue light are responsible for a myriad of skin issues including fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation/sun spots, premature aging, skin cancer, discoloration, uneven tone, and probably a yacht-load of medical things.

Reason No. 2: It’s much cheaper, and far less painful, to prevent damage and aging than it is to reverse it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve participated in a slew of skincare treatments and I love them all. But I spend literally thousands of dollars a year trying to reverse sun damage that could and should have easily been prevented with regular and earlier use of sunscreen.

Treatments like SkinPen ($300-600 per treatment) are designed to break up pigmentation and boost collagen production to eliminate the look of sun spots and fine lines. The treatment uses a device containing lots of tiny needles that move meticulously over your face and provide micro-abrasions to your skin. You have to get numbed for 20 minutes beforehand and it’s like getting one large tattoo on your face. Fun.

BBL is another treatment I get regularly ($300-400 per treatment). The broadband light therapy targets discoloration deep within the epidermis, breaks it into little bits and brings the damage to the surface. Ultimately your body sloughs off the damage in a week or so. The treatment feels like dozens of little rubber band snaps all across your face. I hate this one.

That’s just a little taste at what reversing damage may look like. So take my word – prevention is key! So what kind of damage are we talking about, exactly?

UV and Blue Light 101

Here’s a little context around some key terms.

UV rays provide a one-two punch of damage. They create free radicals which cause oxidative damage, but they are also shown to directly damage the skin’s DNA.

  • UVA – Ultra Violet Aging: Responsible for skin damage related to aging.
  • UVB – Ultra Violet Burning: Responsible for skin damage related to physical burns.

SPF, the Sun Protection Factor, isn’t as regulated as you might think. This is simply a metric accepted by the FDA as a way to determine sunburn (UVB rays). It doesn’t address damage related to wrinkles, cancer, etc. and unfortunately can be very misleading.

Tip: It’s been shown that anything beyond SPF 5o provides no extra barrier, as there isn’t anything that can provide 100% protection.

High Energy Visible Light (HEV Light), aka blue light, comes from our devices and screens and is shown to generate free radicals. This in turn causes oxidative damage to the skin. (Yay, more damage!)

Wondering what to do now? Here are your marching orders…

Product Recommendations

I’ve seen many a dermatologist in my day, and almost annoyingly they all recommend the same drugstore products over and over again (CeraVe, Cetaphil, etc.). But one thing they will tell you to splurge on is sun protection.

My go-to’s that I regularly rotate between:

Additionally, incorporating a good antioxidant product into your routine can provide another layer of protection. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals before they can cause harm. Products like Vitamin C have been gaining in popularity lately because they are so effective! (Google “Vitamin C on an apple”…it’s crazy.)

Some of my favorites:

  • SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic is a little spendy but a little goes a long way.
  • Obagi Medical Professional Series Vitamin C and Tretinoin combo helps provide a barrier while also brightening pigmentation. I use this one on the daily because it does double duty – protects my skin while brightening pigmentation.

I’ll be back with more SPF logic. Until then, #wearsunscreen.

with love,

Amy Abt