Photo by Ana Schecter

Ask Jean: Sunblock

Dear Jean, do I really need to wear sunscreen, every day? As in, a winter day where I’m mostly at the office? – Elaina

Dear Elaina, what the ideal balance between our human need for sunlight—for vitamin D production, mood regulation, melatonin production and doubtlessly three billion other as-yet-undiscovered functions—and our desire to visibly age less quickly (and avoid skin cancer) might be is something nobody’s discovered yet. People have super-strong opinions, however.

My strategy is some sort of middle road. I watched my stepfather die of melanoma, I’m personally pretty pale, and a good portion of my career has been spent interviewing dermatologists, so my middle leans toward the less-sun side.

But the gloved, sun-hatted, chalk-white woman skirting the shady side of a Manhattan street is not me, either. I know I need some sunlight, and I also know that the skin on the inside of my wrist is a lot younger-looking than the skin on the back of my hand.

Some 90% of visible skin aging is environmental. And no sunblock is anywhere near 100% effective, so wearing it most days ensures some level of protection—some stab at not-aging, a stab that’s much more effective than ANY skin cream, peel, or treatment in existence, including retinol, peptides, alpha-hydroxy acids, antioxidants, all of it. Think of your sunblock as the most powerful anti-aging cream on earth, because it is.

That said, chemical sunscreens are among the most irritating (and remember, inflammation causes aging just as surely as sun exposure) ingredients in skincare, while mineral sunblocks are among the most soothing. Chemical sunscreens also degrade in sunlight, so you have to keep re-applying those irritating chemicals if they’re to protect your skin at all. In short, don’t use chemical sunscreens.

DO use a sunblock most mornings (if it’s pouring, I sometimes skip it, even though it’s true that even on days like that, we’re still exposed to plenty of solar radiation). If you’re worried about smoothing it in, that it’s too hard, try any of these three formulas—I swear they’ll change your mind about mineral sunblock. If you’re still like, but sunscreen’s a bother—well, know that wrinkles, sagging skin, brown spots, and gigantic-looking pores are a total bother when you’re…37 or 47 or 77 or whenever it is that they hit you, and that the technologies to lessen them are decent but seriously expensive. And in no way totally curative. Sunblock = skin cream. Wear it and stay young, with smooth, plump, dewy, glowy-gorgeous skin!

Ursa Major Force Field Daily Defense Lotion with SPF 18

goop, $54

This lightweight, ultra-hydrating all-mineral SPF 18 blends in so beautifully it’s truly unbelievable. Unscented and packed with skin-perfecting vitamins, it treats your skin while leaving it smooth and protected. Sinks into skin in seconds, feels incredible–this lotion is seriously the ultimate (easy) daily anti-ager.

Kypris Pot of Shade Heliotropic

goop, $68

This broad-spectrum, beautifully translucent formula is perfect for everyday protection. Boosted with moisturizing botanicals (and no essential oils so it’s ideal for reactive and sensitive skin) and non-nano, non-whitening zinc oxide, it’s brilliant as primer, leaving skin radiant, plumped, and smooth. It feels incredible going on, blends like a dream, soothes any skin type, and makes serious, long-lasting protection a luxurious daily ritual.

Naturopathica Lavender Protective Moisturizer SPF 17

goop, $58

This light hydrator is so easy to apply (we wondered whether it was true physical sunscreen, given its silky feel and the way it sinks effortlessly into skin) that it turns the daily chore of trying to blend in your stubborn sun protection into a genuine pleasure. Skin-soothing lavender plus antioxidant and anti-inflammatory turmeric root combine with micronized (not nano) zinc oxide in this nourishing, mattifying, and ultra-protective SPF moisturizer. It smells and feels fantastic.

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