Are You Screwing Up Your SPF?

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Sure, we should all be wearing sunscreen year-round. But, once warm weather hits and the need for SPF is literally beating down on our shoulders, it's time we actually become vigilant about sun protection. However, if your skincare or makeup routine is any more elaborate than soap-water-sunscreen, you run the risk of rendering your entire regime ineffective through misapplication.

According to Dr. Neal Schultz, a New York-based dermatologist, the order in which you apply your products can be important. Scroll down to find out how it should be done.

1. Acne products: Acne products have to be applied directly to your problem areas to be effective. You don’t want any other products interfering with the treatment, even SPF.

2. Sunscreen: SPF requires between 20 and 30 minutes to set, so you want to start off your skincare regimen with a lightweight sunscreen that will absorb completely and not obstruct your pores. For the most part, sunscreens are tested on bare skin, so you don’t know how throwing an avocado cream into the mix will effect the duration or degree of your skin protection. "Sunscreen molecules must align and orientate parallel to each other, creating a grid that absorbs UV energy," explains Schultz.

3. Water- Or Alcohol-Based Products: Once you’ve got acne products and sun protection out of the way, go by weight. Any product you apply on top of another should have the ability to permeate any underlying layers and, ultimately, penetrate the skin.

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4. Gels, Light Lotions, Heavier Creams, Thick Serums: While we’ve ranked these from most to least permeable, this ordering isn’t set in stone. It’s a matter of trial and error. Often, products have very similar densities. If your lotion is pooling on your skin rather than absorbing, you’ve got the order wrong. A good rule of thumb is to check out the ingredient list and see how prominently the oils, lanolins, and petrolatums figure in. The higher up they're listed, the more difficult the product is to penetrate, the later it should be applied.

5. Anything Ointment-Based: Water-free products are heavy and hard to penetrate, and therefore should be applied last.

One of Dr. Schultz’s favorite ways of simplifying this whole mess is to opt for a BB cream in lieu of individual lotions and sunscreens.

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