Here's a sobering fact: basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It’s more important than ever to have sun safety top of mind. We’ve got you covered when it comes to all things sun and skin here at Byrdie HQ, whether you’re curious about the best SPF products on the market or what it’s really like to get a skin check.
We all know the sun-care basics, right? Apply a high SPF, re-apply regularly, wear a hat if you burn easily. But did you know that your skin is extra vulnerable to the sun if you choose a window seat on the plane or that aspirin works like an internal aftersun lotion? We called on two skin experts—cosmetic dermatologist Rachael Eckel and MD of Ultrasun UK Abi Cleeve—to reveal the most jaw-dropping facts about sun protection you’ll read this summer.
Keep scrolling for the 9 game-changing sun protection tricks you need to know.
1) Wear Red Lipstick to Protect Your Pout
"Your lips don’t make enough pigment to protect against the sun and the lips have the highest incidence of skin cancer on the whole face," according to Eckel. They are delicate and protrude, so they might be more prone to sun-damage, lines and wrinkles, and a leathery appearance.
“Use lipstick and lipgloss with SPF 30 or above to prevent lip aging," she says. "Red lipstick or lipsticks with a deeper pigment protect the lips from the sun; remember that lipsticks are often made from zinc and titanium, which are ingredients used in physical sunscreens.”
2) Protect From Screens as Well as the Sun
Just as we protect from the sunlight, we should be protecting from HEV rays that are emitted by the sun, but also electronics and light bulbs. “HEV light can have a serious effect on skin and eyes and are shown to create more inflammation than all other rays combined, worsening skin conditions like melasma and post-inflammatory pigmentation,” notes Eckel. “Fractionated melanin shows 100% protection against HEV light and lasts 10 hours, so you don’t need to reapply. HEV light activates 90 genes in the skin, but fractionated melanin prevents any genes from being activated.”
3) Strengthen Your Skin Barrier For Extra Protection
We all know that the sun can dehydrate our skin, leaving it dry and parched. “The sun dries up the water in the skin barrier," explains Eckel. "This shield protects us so when the water evaporates, it blows holes in the skin, which allows the sun to penetrate. She recommends using sun protection that also has barrier repair agents in it to plug the "holes" in the skin.
Ingredients like ceramides, fatty acids and squalene all help keep your skin barrier strong. Always look to a broad spectrum SPF that protects against UVA and UVB rays. If the product mentions infrared, HEV light or DNA repair and has antioxidants, then you’re onto a real winner.
4) Supplement Your Sun Protection
Did you know that there are two supplements that you can take that are kind of like an internal aftersun? “All my patients take omega 3s, which are anti-inflammation supplements," notes Eckel. Sun-induced inflammation is also reduced when you take omega 3 and is great for anti-aging, according to Eckel. She also told Stellar.ie, “studies have shown that if you take aspirin (orally) when you come back from the beach, its anti-inflammatory properties will reduce inflammation caused by sun exposure. It’s also been noted that not only will you have less sun damage, but it decreases the rates of skin cancer too.” So double up on these to double down on your protection.
5) Use Sun Protection in the Skies
Abi Cleeve warns that UVA rays can penetrate glass, especially at high altitude, “making pilots spending long periods in the cockpit up to twice as likely to develop melanoma," warns Abi Cleeve, MD for Ultrasun UK and founder SkinSense. So if you’ve requested a window seat, a good face of SPF with a very high UVA filter (look for over 90%; Ultrasun face SPFs are all at this level) will protect your skin en route to your destination.
6) Always Apply Sunscreen Inside
According to Cleeve, sun protection can evaporate in direct sunlight, "so it’s important to apply liberally, but also apply indoors at least 15 minutes before going out into the sun to allow the filters to bond with the skin and not be wasted on the sun longer,” says Cleeve. "Do it first thing, do it indoors and apply plenty," she says.
7) You Don’t Have to Go Red Before You Go Brown
“This is one of the biggest myths in sun protection and it contributes to skin damage and skin cancer cases," says Cleeve. "The fact is that as soon as the skin reddens, it’s in trauma. By protecting properly from the sun, the tan achieved will last. A 'trauma tan' from inadequate protection that occurs too fast only ensures that the skin burns and sheds, leaving the skin tan-less in days.”
8) Protect Yourself in the Sun, Sand and Snow
You might think that the beach is the only place you'll have to slather on sunscreen, but UV rays can penetrate cloud cover, according to Cleeve. "It makes year-round protection important, particularly for avoiding additional skin aging when it isn't summer," she says. UV rays are reflected differently depending on location and surface:
Snow—up to 80%
Sea Foam—around 25%
So, ensure you pack on sun protection whether you’re hitting the beach, sea or slopes. Click here for the sunscreens pro athletes use to protect their skin.
Top tip: Dr. Eckel recommends this mineral SPF for reapplying over your makeup.
9) Save Your Perfume for Summer Nights
“When sprayed directly onto the skin, perfume [can] undermine the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV damage,” warns Cleeve. “Perfume-covered skin becomes more vulnerable to sun damage." That means the level of protection you get from your sunscreen is diminished as well. Supposedly, that’s why you often see women with speckled pigmentation patches on their necks and chest. Who knew?!
Next up, the 7 best after sun lotions of 2019.
Skin Cancer Foundation. Basal Cell Carcinoma Overview. Updated March 2021.
Purnamawati S, Indrastuti N, Danarti R, Saefudin T. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. 2017;15(3-4):75-87. doi:10.3121/cmr.2017.1363
World Health Organization. Radiation: Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation. Updated March 9, 2016.