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Most Common Sunscreen Mistakes

When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, patients have a multitude of options from fragrances, type of application, water resistance, shades, depths of coverage, and brands. There are a few common errors that are made when choosing a sunscreen product. 

  1. Not choosing SPF 30 or higher
  2. Not using Broad Spectrum or UVA/UVB coverage sunscreen
  3. Using a product that’s water resistant

Beyond your choice of sunscreen, proper application and reapplication are key. When applying sunscreen, rub on a generous layer. As a guide, it takes about 1 ounce (about a shot glass full) of sunscreen for one application to the entire body. Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours or immediately after sweating or swimming.

Different Types of Sunscreens

There are two major types of sunscreens—chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are made from organic compounds such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate, octisalate which absorb the sun’s rays as they penetrate the skin. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and deflect the harmful UV rays. Each type of sunscreen has its pros and cons.

Physical Sunscreens:


  • Works immediately
  • Less irritating/better for sensitive skin
  • No systemic absorption
  • Longer shelf life
  • Less likely to clog pores


  • Washes off more easily in the water (may require more frequent applications)
  • May look white on the skin

Chemical Sunscreens:


Thinner and easier to spread over the skin (less needed to cover the body)


  • Starts working about 20 minutes after application
  • May be more irritating to sensitive skin
  • May clog pores

My favorite sunscreens are Face Shield by Colorescience and Essential Defense Mineral Shield by Skin Medica. For easy to find products, my favorite brands are Neutrogena, Cetaphil, CeraVe and Aveeno. For gentlemen, I find that they prefer Skin Medica’s Essential Defense or Elta MD’s UV Clear. For darker skin tones, patients like Face Shield Bronze by Colorescience and Elta MD’s UV Clear.

Sunscreen Game Changers

Colorescience makes a sunscreen powder! This makes reapplication to the face much simpler and more elegant. I use this sunscreen as a setting powder to decrease my oily shine throughout the day. Sunscreen and beauty all in the same brush!

Many brands make sunscreen bars that look like deodorant sticks. These are great for golfers, fishers, etc. as the container design allows for easy application and avoids getting the hands greasy.

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