In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month,  let’s talk about that hot, forgivably gassy, stud who loves being the center of everything. No, not your ex. The sun.

And let’s face it, both should be blocked. No shade, though. Sometimes, you can’t avoid either but you should.

Want a better relationship with your sunscreen? No sweat, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s the skinny on how to avoid a bad flare day:

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My (Mineral vs.) Chemical Romance

What’s your type?

Sunscreens have two types of active ingredients. mineral (physical/inorganic) and chemical (also called organic). Some are hybrids of both.

Physical sunscreens contain mineral-based ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

Chemical sunscreens contain, well, basically everything else. Common ingredients include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene. While the Food and Drug Administration cautions against certain actives in chemical sunscreens, including avobenzone, more research is needed to determine whether they affect our health.

According to Dr. Michelle Wong, cosmetic chemist and creator of Lab Muffin Beauty Science, there is a misconception that chemical sunscreens need time to activate. However, waiting 15-20 mins allows chemical and physical sunscreens to dry to even out and bind to the skin before sun or water exposure.

Which will it be?

Bachelor No. 1: Mineral sunscreen, preferably water-resistant — if you tend to run into issues with irritation, especially around the eyes, or if the chemical sunscreen type gives you trust issues.

Bachelor No. 2: Chemical sunscreen — if you’re concerned about texture or getting a white cast. (Insert your own ghosting joke here.)

Consult your doctor on the best option for you if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

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Big Star Energy

Let’s rays the bar on your UV radiation smarts.

  • UVA: The least potent but most abundant of the rays. This can penetrate through clouds and glass and can cause premature aging (like wrinkles), so lather up year-round, even on cloudy or rainy days.
  • UVB: The second most potent of the rays. Think “B” for burns or sunburns. This one is thought to cause a greater risk of skin cancer.
  • UVC: The shortest and most potent of the rays.  These get absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer, so they can’t reach us, but they can still be found in welding torches and older tanning beds.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

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A Solid Foundation

Is SPF in makeup really enough? Well, what UV isn’t what you get.

Primers, foundations, tinted moisturizers, powders, etc. with SPF are no substitute for sunblock. To achieve the amount of SPF on the label, you need approximately 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin, which means you’d probably need more makeup than you’d normally use.  Imagine reapplying 1/2 tsp of foundation on your face and neck every two hours throughout the day!

Most makeup products typically don’t offer broad-spectrum protection either, which means you likely wouldn’t get enough protection against skin-aging UVA rays.

Tip: Apply sunblock after your skincare and before your makeup.

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Going Steady

Keep things slow.

You may end up missing some parts of your body if you apply in a hurry. On the bright side, slowing down may reduce balling/pilling.  Don’t forget your scalp, ears, scalp, lips and the tops of your feet.

The amount you need depends on your body’s surface area. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends using 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, to cover the entire body. The estimate is roughly 1 tsp for your face, hand and neck; 1 tsp for each arm and hand; 1 tsp for each leg and foot; and 2 tsp for your entire torso. Adding more layers of at least SPF 30 just in case can increase protection.

Layering products with SPF does not increase the amount of SPF. The total amount of SPF you’ll have by combining these products is the highest SPF applied. For example, if you layer SPF 15, SPF 30, and SPF 50, your total coverage is still SPF 50. Keep in mind that by reapplying a different brand of sunscreen from your base layer, the ingredients can destabilize each other. This can also lead to piling.

The Effort Is Mutual

This relationship is 50/50.

For sunscreen to do its part, you need to do yours: (re) apply yourself. Sunblock creates a protective film, which can erode over time and when you’re physically active. Reapply at least every two hours or within 40-80 minutes of swimming, exercising or sweating – even if your sunscreen is water-resistant. You may also need to reapply indoors, too.

Wearing sunscreen inside sounds counterintuitive, right? Well, 50-75% (estimates vary) of UVA rays can penetrate through glass. If you’re spending a substantial amount of time near windows, you could potentially be exposed to skin-damaging light.

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A Happy Ending

Regular use of sunblock can help reduce your chances of skin cancers and skin precancers. Additionally,  sun-protective hats, sunglasses and clothing can provide extra protection. Basically, pretend you just saw your ex from across the street and need to go incognito stat! Remember, the best sunscreen is the one you use.

When searching for your sol-mate this summer, keep your expectations high and your risk low.

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