We’re in full-on summer mode, y’all, which gives us lots of warm weather things to love: DIY hammocks, ice rings and tie-dye clothes included. While we’re all out soaking up the good stuff this time of year has to offer, let’s not forget about SPF, SPF, SPF! Regardless of whether you’re in the sun or the water, sun protection is essential every damn day (yes, even when it’s not summer!).


That said, it’s not just a matter of slapping the stuff on and forgetting all about it. There are some important factors to keep in mind when you’re choosing what SPF is right for you. I caught up with Kerry Benjamin, founder and owner of Stacked Skincare and my personal skincare guru, to get the scoop.

1. Not all sunscreens are created equal. There are three common types of sunscreen: physical sunscreen, chemical sunscreen and combination sunscreen. “Physical sunscreen creates a physical barrier that deflects UV rays away from the skin,” Kerry said. “Chemical sunscreens actually absorb into the skin, converting UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin. Combination sunscreen has the gentleness of a physical sunscreen with increased spreadability from the small percentage of chemical sunscreen they contain.”

2. Chemical sunscreen must be applied *before* sun exposure. While you get instant sun protection from physical sunscreen, you must be proactive about chemical sunscreen application — Kerry recommends applying them at least 30 minutes before heading into the sun so they can activate.

3. Don’t bother buying sunscreen above SPF 50. “According to the FDA, your skin doesn’t experience any additional protection above SPF 50, which gives you about 98% protection from the sun’s harmful rays,” Kerry said. “Instead, look for a sunscreen between 30-50 SPF that has UVA and UVB protection.”

4. Stay away from SPF sprays. When you’re sunscreen shopping, opt for creams and lotions instead of sprays or powder-based SPF products. If you use a spray or powder, your skin won’t have enough coverage and you run the risk of leaving patches exposed. Ouch!

5. If you have sensitive or acneic skin, use physical sunscreen. Kerry recommends physical sunscreen if you have irritable or sensitive skin. “Physical sunscreens are less likely to be pore-clogging than chemical sunscreens,” Kerry explained. “I always recommend physical sunscreens to my clients with blemish-prone, fair or sensitive skin. Just make sure you reapply every 2-3 hours!”

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(Photos via Getty)