Respect the Sun: The Best New Sunscreens, Protective Clothing, and Makeup with SPF

You’re smart enough to know you need to slather on sunscreen and use an SPF of at least 30. But there’s a lot more you can do to save your skin this summer. Luckily, we’ve got a plan of action for before you and your kids head outside, while you’re in the sun and (uh-oh!) after you’ve been burned. Find out the best new sunscreens, clothing with UPF protection, makeup with SPF 30+, and more.

woman in sunglasses and hat

Photo by Felix Wong

Photo by Felix Wong

Hat, lulus.com, $11. Sunglasses, smithoptics.com, $169.

The Pre-Sun Warm-Up

Before you leave the house, remember to...

Be UV savvy.
Your chances of getting a burn go through the (sun)roof with a high UV Index—which is essentially tallied up according to the time of day, how cloudy it is and your elevation. The higher the UV Index, the faster you can expect to crisp up: “Skin damage can occur in as little as 10 minutes on a UV Index day of 8 or higher,” says Susan Weinkle, MD, a dermatologist in Bradenton, FL. Check your phone’s weather app to get the UV Index for your precise location and time of day, or download the EPA’s SunWise UV Index app or UVLens (Android and iOS, free).

Scrutinize your sunscreen.
Yes, you can actually still buy suntan oil without a single drop of SPF. That’s why you want to make extra sure that the sunscreen you buy is marked full- or broad-spectrum, an indication that it protects against aging UVA and burning UVB rays. Choose an SPF of at least 30, which blocks about 97% of UVB rays. Slather on a sizable amount (about one shot glass) over all exposed areas—face, ears, neck, chest, arms, legs and tops of feet—30 minutes before heading outdoors and, of course, reapply at least every two hours.

Playing It Safe in the Sun

When you’re at the pool or beach, put your umbrella up...but don’t let your guard down.

Reapply sunscreen.
It’s easy to get swept up in your page-turner, so set the timer on your phone or use apps like UV Lens or SunZapp (Android and iOS, free) that will remind you when it’s time to slather up again. 

Curb your cocktails.
Women who drink in excess of six alcoholic beverages per week are more likely than nondrinkers to develop skin cancer, one study found. Researchers aren’t sure why, but alcohol is thought to reduce your skin’s concentration of protective antioxidants. (Plus, we all know those glasses of rosé go down a bit too easy when temperatures rise, making you forget about sunscreen.)

Choose your umbrella color carefully.
A striped umbrella is cute (and can make the town pond feel the tiniest bit like Positano), but a simple black one may be your best sun accessory, according to a  JAMA study. It blocks up to 95% of UV rays, while lighter colors only block about 75%. That said, if you’re under an umbrella, you still need to wear sunscreen, since light can bounce off the ground onto your skin. In a different JAMA study, 78% of beachgoers who used only a beach umbrella, not sunscreen, got burned.

Wear shades.
Everyone in the family should have at least one pair with 100% UV protection. Spoil your kids with sunglasses if you have to, since prolonged sun exposure before the age of 18 can lead to pinkish eye growths, called pterygiums, in their 30s and 40s. Budget sunnies are totally fine: “Polarized glasses and pricey designer shades don’t offer any greater UV protection than drugstore styles,” says Michelle Andreoli, MD, American Academy of Ophthalmology clinical spokesperson and an ophthalmologist at Wheaton Eye Clinic near Chicago. 

Wear a sun hat.
There is fashion and there is function—and with sun hats, you (and your self-conscious teenagers) want both. So, yes, your daughter’s porkpie hat with the 1-inch brim may be cute, but it’s useless. Look for options with at least a 3-inch brim all the way around. Baseball caps are OK, but they expose the ears and neck, common places for skin cancer to appear. To stave off forehead acne, wash hats regularly by hand or on the gentle cycle—especially after a sweaty outing, says Noëlle Sherber, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. 

The Latest Sunscreen Formulas

8 different sunscreens

Photo by Felix Wong

Photo by Felix Wong

These are colorless, sheer and so very easy to apply. (There goes your daughter’s favorite excuse!)

1. The handle-nozzle on Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen SPF 100+ ($13) makes it easy to cover those out-of-reach spots. 

2. Get your sweat on with Coppertone Sport Clear Sunscreen SPF 30 ($7), a gel that cools your skin. 

3. Despite being more than 20% zinc oxide, Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 ($10) doesn’t leave behind a white film. 

4. If you have sensitive skin, try Banana Boat Simply Protect Sensitive Faces Sunscreen SPF 50+ ($8), which has very few ingredients. 

5. Drop a tube of Sun Bum Lip Balm ($4) in each family member’s bag to hydrate and protect lips. 

6. For those highly visible—but also highly vulnerable—spots, press on the clear liquid Ocean Potion Dab-On Spot Stick SPF 50 ($5). 

7. Don’t let breakouts be an excuse for your teen to skip sunscreen. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60 ($20) is oil-free. 

8. What happens when a sensible mom (“wear your sunscreen!”) and a unicorn (“shine on, girl!”) create an SPF: Bare Republic Mineral SPF 30 Shimmer Sunscreen Lotion in Golden Daze ($15).

TIP: SPF is not cumulative. Layering two SPF 15 products still provides only SPF 15, not 30.

Concerned about acne breakouts from sunscreen?

Buy and try different brands. The last thing your kid want is zits. The second-to-last thing? A sunscreen that triggers them. Look for formulas labeled non-comedogenic (aka, not pore clogging), says Noëlle Sherber, MD, in Washington, DC. Don’t be surprised if you have to buy several until you find the right formula. It’s worth the investment to make sure kids have a lotion they will actually wear. Stash it everywhere—the bathroom, the mudroom and in their backpacks. 

Swimsuits With Built-In Protection

woman in long-sleeve swimsuit

Photo by Felix Wong

Photo by Felix Wong

Long-sleeve one-piece, speedousa.com, $98

You don’t have to dress like a Victorian lady in knickers and knee socks to protect yourself against the sun’s rays. These days some fabrics—especially for swimsuits, cover-ups and rash guards—carry ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, ratings. Fabric with a UPF rating of 50 lets just 2% of the sun’s rays through.

When You Feel the Burn

So your intentions were good, but your skin has achieved four-alarm status. Extinguish the flames with these cooling moves:

Get ahead of the pain.
Take an anti-­inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen as soon as you suspect a burn. 

Baby your skin.
Stick to gentle cleansers like Cetaphil and avoid scented products and exfoliants, which can irritate dry, burned skin. For pain relief, soak in a tub filled with cool water and a colloidal oatmeal product like Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment. Afterward, apply a moisturizer with aloe vera or try hydrocortisone cream for itching. Let your inflamed and irritated skin breathe by wearing loose-fitting clothing.

Keep your hands off.
Blame it on all those viral videos from Dr. Pimple Popper, but your daughter cannot resist lancing sun blisters or peeling flaky layers. Still, compel her to let wounded skin heal on its own, because “picking increases the risk
of infection and scarring,” Weinkle says. To heal blisters, apply antibacterial ointment and cover loosely with a bandage. 

Quench your thirst.
Burns draw fluid into the skin, making you feel more parched. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (but not alcohol—sorry!).

New Clothes With UPF Protection

wearing clothing with UPF protection

Photo by Felix Wong

Photo by Felix Wong

Button-down, mott50.com, $128. Pants, llbean.com, $69.

You can now find everyday and office-wear pieces with UPF protection. You also can use a laundry additive like SunGuard to add sun protection to your family’s clothes. 

3 Common Myths About Sun Protection

Only old people get skin cancer.
Are you really trying to leave grandma out there like that? The truth is, even 20-somethings are at risk. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is one of the most common cancers in the under-30 crowd. That’s why it’s important to routinely check skin for new or unusual-looking blemishes.

I have dark skin. I don’t need sunscreen.
No one is immune from skin cancer. Telltale signs like color changes in moles or skin growths are harder to detect on dark skin tones. That’s one reason why the disease is typically more advanced and harder to treat when it’s finally diagnosed in people of color. If you’re not worried about cancer, soak up some of sunscreen’s other benefits. It also helps prevent uneven patches on dark skin.

I won’t get enough vitamin D.
Sunshine can be an unsafe way to get your daily D. Smarter, healthier alternatives include eating more salmon and tuna, drinking vitamin D–enriched milk and juice, and taking supplements. 

Makeup With SPF 30+

cosmetics with SPF

Photo by Felix Wong

Photo by Felix Wong

Every bit of SPF helps. Here, our fave makeup with SPF 30+.

1. The multitasking It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream Illumination SPF 50+ ($39) hydrates, protects and minimizes fine lines.

2. Apply Volition Prismatic Luminizing Shield SPF 50 ($35) on days you have no time for makeup.

3. Set your makeup—and add sun protection—with Paula’s Choice On-the-Go Shielding Powder SPF 30 ($29).

4. Add a few drops of Coola Sun Silk Drops SPF 30 ($46) to your favorite lotion or foundation.