On a budget? These days, we're more cost-conscious than ever, but don't penny-pinch at the expense of your skin. Even during fall and winter months, the skin requires adequate protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. In fact, radiation is stronger during the winter, because the sun is closer to the Earth, Neil Sadick, M.D., president of the Weill Cornell Medical College and Cosmetic Surgery Foundation, writes on Fox News. Fortunately, there are many affordable sunscreens on the market. You just have to find the right one for you, with all of the protective ingredients you need. Here’s how.
"Expensive doesn't mean better," according to the L.A. County Department of Health Services. "You may prefer the smell or feel of more expensive products, but you won't get better protection."
Focus on finding a sunscreen that protects your skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which can cause skin damage, aging and cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). UVA and UVB can also suppress the immune system, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation. Fortunately, broad-spectrum sunscreens offer effective protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Look for a combination of these active UVA ingredients:
- Avobenzone, also called Parsol 1789
- Benzophenones, such as oxybenzone and sulisobenzone
- Ecamsule, also known as Mexoryl SX
- Meradimate (menthyl anthranilate)
Also, look for at least one of these UVB-absorbing ingredients:
- Padimate O, the only FDA-approved para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) ester
- Salicylates, such as homomenthyl salicylate, octisalate (octyl salicylate) and triethanolamine salicylate
- Cinnamates, such as octinoxate (octylmethoxycinnamate) and cinoxate
- Ensulizole (phenylbenzimiazole sulfonic acid)
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide provide both UVA and UVB protection. Plus, these ingredients seldom cause skin irritation.
Wondering where the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) comes in? "SPF is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin," explains the Skin Cancer Foundation. SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 30 blocks 97 percent; and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent.
Look for sunscreen with SPF 15, or preferably higher. Recent clinical trials have shown that sunscreen with SPF 30 provides better protection than one with SPF 15, according to the University of California, San Francisco. UCSF suggests applying sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 and frequently reapplying.
Now that you know the essentials, search out an affordable option. Sunscreens come in many forms: creams, gels, lotions, ointments, sprays and wax sticks. While no one type is more affordable than the others, creams work particularly well on the face and dry skin, and gels and sprays are easiest to use on hairier parts of the body. You’ll also find sunscreen for sensitive or oily skin and kids.
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 30 delivers broad-spectrum protection without leaving skin feeling heavy or greasy. The formula is also rich in antioxidants that fight skin-damaging free radicals. If you’d like a higher SPF, Neutrogena offers the same formula with SPF 45.
More money-saving tips
Try these tips to further cut the cost of sunscreen:
- Store sunscreen at room temperature to maximize its life. “It’s not a good idea to store sunscreen in a golf bag, or in the glove compartment or trunk of your car during the summer,” Patricia Agin, director of photobiology research at Schering-Plough Corp., tells MSNBC.
- Choose a moisturizer that also offers broad-spectrum protection, instead of buying a separate sunscreen. Just remember that like any sunscreen, you must reapply your moisturizer at least every two hours. Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 isn’t only a great moisturizer with Total Soy Complex that heals skin. The breakthrough product also contains Active Photobarrier Complex™ scientifically proven to protect skin against the sun.
Learn everything you need to know about budget skincare in our Beauty on a Budget Handbook.