The basics of skin care are easy: cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen. The rest is gravy.
But sunscreen is oft-overlooked, used only as an as-needed addition — for days spent at the beach or by the pool, out on the courts (or the course), and during other outdoor pursuits. You guys! As most dermatologists will tell you, it should be on your face every single day — even indoors! Yep. Indoors. UV rays creep in through your windows, your windshield, and a million other inside ways.
And yes, the primary reason to wear sunscreen has always and will always be to prevent skin cancer. But research shows the sun is also the one thing that ages your skin the most. That means sunscreen is the easiest and least expensive daily habit you can implement for gliding into your later years with fewer lines and sunspots. Plus it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the lasers that un-do sun damage.
I’m a Millenial by all standards, so I grew up in a time where sunscreen was coconut-scented and usually by Coppertone — something you picked up at Target before a trip to the beach. I didn’t have access to a Sephora until college, and even then, sunscreens on the shelves were spare. Formulars were largely goopy, heavy, chalky white, and stung like hell if it got in your eyes, which turned an entire generation off from the stuff.
Times have changed!
Teens today don’t know how good they have it. We had Water Babies, they have fifteen formulas of Supergoop. Don’t fret though, the proverbial skin ship has NOT sailed on the 25+ crowd. It’s never too late to start wearing sunscreen every day, and if you find the right stuff for your particular needs, it’s an easy habit to maintain.
I implemented daily sunscreen around age 30, and have seen a marked difference in my skin over the years. I have very few lines and no sunspots, despite a youth spent basking in the Florida sun slathered in tanning oil. My friends are always asking me what I’ve “had done”. And while I do definitely embrace the wonders of a good laser (BBL, Moxi, and Morpheus), my skin looked good before I ever started that stuff, which I largely attribute to the simple act of wearing sunscreen every single day. I only wish I’d started sooner.
Today, the market is flooded with hundreds of options. I’m here to help whittle it down for you. These are sunscreens I’ve personally tested and vetted, with the help of a few girlfriends with different skin concerns than myself. I also owe a huge debt to the hilarious and deeply transparent @whatsonvsface (arguably the internet’s biggest sunscreen poster girl) and @charlotteparler, whose informative, myth-busting TikToks/Reels helped me hack through the beauty marketing BS — and find rock-solid products.
Starter ‘screen: if you’re looking to keep it simple and want one sunscreen that can tackle general daily wear, I recommend Apostrophe’s ‘Screen or Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen. ‘Screen is a creamy moisturizer/sunscreen combo and Unseen Sunscreen is matte and clear right out of the bottle. Both rub in clear and leave no white cast, even on darker skin tones. And both play well with a variety of skin types without drying you out or turning into a greasy sheen. You can totally go bare-faced after. I also like Cocokind’s sunscreen if your shopping price point is more Target than Sephora and Derm favorite Ulta MD hits all the same marks as well, if you’re an Amazon Prime person.
Under makeup: no, the SPF in your makeup is not enough to protect you on its own — you’d have to PILE it on to get proper coverage. So, on days I wear makeup, I start with a base layer of SuperGoop’s Glowscreen. Makeup sticks to it, and it leaves my face with a subtle pearly sheen. (Noting here that it has a peachy hue out of the bottle that I’m not sure would work great on dark skin tones.)
Makeup: Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation is the TRUTH. A little bit goes a long way, so don’t be fooled by the watery consistency. Apply it with a damp Beautyblender and whoa, that glow. Again, the SPF in this stuff won’t alone protect you, but I love using it as an extra boost of protection on top of my sunscreen base layer. And it comes in a million shades. You can definitely find a match.
Sweaty Bettys: for outdoors, for sport, for the beach, or anywhere you need high-performance sunscreen, Neutrogena’s Ultra-Sheer Dry Touch rocks. Just re-apply it every hour or so. One hit won’t protect you all day when you’re wiping sweat off your brow every 60 seconds. It’s a clear formula that gives you a little sheen.
The step-skipper: if you like to use a Vitamin C serum in the morning, SuperGoop makes a great C serum/sunscreen combo that I’ll often use as the last step on days I’m going makeup-free.
Acne-prone: La Roche Posay (maybe my all-time favorite drugstore brand) makes a wonderful non-comedogenic formula for the breakout-prone.
…But you want a tan: sunscreen doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your sun-kissed skin. Tan-Luxe is my favorite product line for creating a faux glow, especially their Sun Drops. I use a few drops mixed into my sunscreen. It builds up to a natural, healthy-looking color without turning my face orange. (Their Gradual Lotion is also awesome for your legs, btw.)
A final note to female-identifying readers: Women are so aggressively marketed that we need to “fix” so much about ourselves. You are perfect. Lines are normal and natural and often quite beautiful. If nothing else, think of sunscreen as a safety measure. But if you’re like me, and (partially) motivated to wear sunscreen by vanity, please don’t think of aging as a negative thing — especially in these times, it is an immense privilege to grow older.
I realize that this letter just barely glazes the surface of the skincare universe, one that can be very intimidating. If you’ve still got questions, no worries — we’re doing a skincare mega chat on Clubhouse this Tuesday evening, September 31 at 7PM. I’ll be joined by some experts with way more know-how than myself, so join us and bring those questions!