The best way to wear sunscreen is to apply it first thing in the morning, and then wait 15 to 20 minutes before heading outdoors so it absorbs completely. Reapply sunscreen about every two hours or after you swim or perspire heavily. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. During a sunup-to-sundown beach day, come indoors for a lunch break from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the sun is at its peak and reapply before going back outside.
If you're prone to dryness, try CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30. It's great for everyday use and is infused with hyaluronic acid, a humectant that sits on top of the skin and attracts water from the air. Don't forget to coat your neck, chest, and the tops of your ears.
If you do accidentally burn, take down the inflammation fast with a thin layer of aloe vera gel. It's more than 90% H2O, so it has an instant cooling effect, rather like a blanket of water. Top that with a coat of 1% hydrocortisone cream like Cortizone 10 Creme with Aloe a couple times a day.
The one beach-bag product to splurge on is a topical antioxidant, which can neutralize harmful molecules called free radicals and defend against environmental damage. Vitamin C in the form of L-absorbic acid is one of my favorites, and it's abundant in SkinCeuticals Serum 10 AOX+. Use it under your sunscreen for an additional layer of protection against summer's harsh outdoor elements.
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The New Sunscreen Rules
Be aware of the new regulations developed by the FDA for over-the-counter sunscreens that took effect in the summer of 2012.
Sunscreen versus sunblock
Sunscreens can no longer be labeled "sunblock" because the FDA says the claim is false. "Sunblock implies the product 'blocks' 100% of the sun's rays, which is untrue," Kauvar says. "Sunscreens will absorb, scatter, or reflect varying amounts of UVB and UVA, depending on their composition."