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Sunscreen Myths: How You Should Really Apply SPF In The Fall

08/27/2012 08:43 EDT | Updated 09/06/2012 05:18 EDT

We know we have to wear sunscreen daily, that tanning beds are bad for us, etc., etc. But when it comes to sunscreen specifics -- especially in terms of updating our beauty routines for fall -- there are a few sun-protecting myths we still believe. Here, Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, owner and medical director of the Bay Dermatology Centre in Toronto, helps to clear things up for us.

Sunscreen Myths: How You Should Really Apply SPF In The Fall

Wear Sunscreen, Not Makeup With SPF

We love the convenience of BB creams and foundations with SPF right in the formulation, but we found out from Dr. Skotnicki they simply may not be protecting as they should be. “SPF is an artificial number determined in a lab,” she says. And as we’ve all heard before, most of us don’t apply enough sunscreen -- we need to be applying a shot glass’ worth of sunscreen to cover the entire body to get the SPF determined in the lab environment. “For the face, you would need about a full teaspoon and most people do not put that much moisturizer or foundation on.” For this reason, she's not a fan of cosmetic creams or makeup with SPF in them for the purpose of sun protection.

Touch Up Your Sun Protection With A Mineral Powder

While there’s no hard numbers in terms of how much mineral foundation powder you need to apply to get the SPF indicated on the product, Dr. Skotnicki does like the use of these powders as a way of touching up your face before you pop out for lunch or if you forgot to put on your facial sunscreen that day. Don’t rely on these for daily sun protection, though. “They are not enough of a sunscreen if you are going to be out all day during high UV-index periods,” she says.

You Don't Need To Reapply As Often As You Think

We’re told to reapply every two hours -- but how realistic is that when you’re in the office all day and dressed for work. Happily, we discovered from Dr. Skotnicki we get a bit of a reprieve. “The "reapply every two hours" really has more to do with the potential breakdown of sunscreen in the sun or what we call photo-stability,” she says. “As well, chemical sunscreens are like sponges and once they absorb rays and get used up, they need to be reapplied.” What that means is that if you are indoors all day or not sweating and swimming, you don’t need to reapply. For most of us corporate types stuck in an office, she says if you apply your sunscreen in the morning, do your makeup, stay inside all morning and go out at lunch, you do not have to reapply.

Don’t Decrease Your SPF

In times of cooler temperatures, ’fess up -- you stop buying and wearing sunscreen daily, don’t you? Or you downgrade to a lower SPF product? Resist the urge to do so. The sun’s still out, after all, and Dr. Skotnicki points out the purpose of sunscreen is protection. “I recommend SPF 30 and higher at all times of sun exposure. Most people don't apply the proper quantity of sunscreen so right off the bat, an SFP 30 is likely only giving you a SPF of 20 or less.”

Wear Effective Lip Protection Every Day

The fact that we’re constantly reapplying our lipstick -- what with it coming off when kissing people on both cheeks, swiping it onto napkins or eating a sandwich at lunch -- makes us think we need to be applying way more SPF lip balm than we do. Dr. Skotnicki cuts us some slack. “Any lip sun protection is better than none as so many people forget about their lips,” she says. But (you had to know there was a “but” coming), she says you should opt for ones without all of the extracts. “One does not need flavours and natural things like beeswax, propilis or other extras. A bit of titanium or zinc will make the lip protector stay on better.” She does recognize these types of balms can give your lips a white hue. Her favourites that don’t whiten, but do the job? The ones from Ombrelle and La Roche Posay.