The Hollywood Dermatologists' Guide To Sun Protection

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
If you want a good steak, you go to a steak house. Craving authentic pho? Only a Vietnamese restaurant will do. So when it comes to skin protection, who better to weigh in than the top derms practicing in the land of perpetual sun and surf? After all, the sun's out almost every day here, so Angeleno docs take sun protection very seriously.

With summer's longer days being filled with more outdoor activities, it's the perfect time to refresh your SPF knowledge and stock up on the best sunscreens on the market.

To help you accomplish this, we chatted with four of Hollywood's top dermatologists, all of whom have thriving practices and celebrity patients (even if many of these have to keep their A-list roster under lock and key because of privacy laws). Ahead, expect tips for everything from picking an SPF for acne-prone skin to properly layering sunscreen with other skin-care staples. Plus, product suggestions for different skin types and concerns.
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Dr. Ava T. Shamban
Board-certified dermatologist with practices in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

What is the minimum SPF one should wear on a workday?
"If you work in an office and you're inside most of the day, the minimum is 15, but I'd really be more comfortable with recommending SPF 20. However, the really important thing is that it's broad-spectrum, because UVA rays can penetrate glass. [UVAs are] the the rays that penetrate the dermis and stimulate the peptides that chew up fat and make skin look shriveled as you age. If you work outside or are driving all day, you need to wear SPF 50 or above. "

Do you have any favorite SPFs that you recommend to your patients?
"For the face, I recommend a lot of Elta MD because they have formulas that go on clear and have high SPFs. [For days when you're outside], I like Neutrogena's Sport Face because it goes on white but soaks in and doesn't leave you greasy. For the body, I like Banana Boat or Coppertone Waterbabies sprays because they attach to the skin and stay in place."

What about for people who break out easily?
"For my acne-prone patients, I like to recommend Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 because it's light and has niacinamide, which is great for acne."

Do you have any other tips for people who tend to break out more in the summer?
"I really love the pads and wipes with salicylic or glycolic acids because they don't often irritate the skin and are great for the summer, when you want to treat your face three times a day because you get greasier." [Editor's note: Try Yes To Tomatoes Blemish Clearing Facial Wipes.]
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Dr. Jessica Wu
Board-certified dermatologist with a practice in Beverly Hills.

Many people are confused by what SPF values really mean. Can you break it down for us?
"SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB (burning) rays. SPF 15 blocks 94%, and SPF 45 blocks 98%. So you can see that double the SPF does not give you double the sun protection. In fact, very high SPF sunscreens contain high concentrations of ingredients and may be more likely to irritate your skin. Also, if you are going to the beach or pool, be sure to check the label and look for the words 'water resistant' followed by a number, which indicates how many minutes it will protect you when you’re wet."

What brands and formulas do you recommend to your patients?
"For oily or acne-prone skin, I suggest an oil-free, mattifying liquid like Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector. If your skin is dry, avoid gels and sprays, which may contain alcohol that could dry out skin. Instead, I suggest a moisturizing sunscreen cream like Eve Lom Daily Protection Sunscreen or my Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals Anti-Aging Sun Care SPF 32.

"If you're oily and sensitive, try Avène Ultra Light Sunscreen Lotion. If you're dry and sensitive, or if you prefer an organic option, I suggest Coola Mineral Baby Unscented Moisturizer SPF 50 . If you want SPF with coverage, look for tinted sunscreen or BB cream. I wear MD SolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème when I paddleboard to even out my skin tone while it protects from UV rays. And I reapply when I get out of the water! For the beach or pool, or if you're doing outdoor sports, I like the sunscreen sticks from Neutrogena, which go on clear. Your hands won't be slippery or greasy when gripping a paddle or tennis racket."

If you have SPF in your makeup, do you need to wear a separate sunscreen?
"You don’t necessarily need to use a separate sunscreen. SPF makeup is held to the same standard as sunscreen, so a foundation with SPF 30 will protect you as well as an SPF 30 sunscreen, if it’s applied in the same way. Sunscreens are meant to be applied in a smooth, uniform layer. If you only use foundation or powder lightly, or if you only put it on certain areas to cover blotchiness, then yes, you should use a sunscreen first, under makeup."
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Dr. Harold Lancer
Board-certified dermatologist with a practice in Beverly Hills.

What is the minimum SPF one should wear on a workday?
"Most people should be fine applying an SPF 30 first thing in the morning, and then again before driving home from work. SPF 30 should provide strong enough protection from UV rays during your commute and morning, but reapplication is necessary if you want full protection again at the end of the day."

What about a beach day?
"On a beach day, you are again safe using an SPF 30, but you ought to be reapplying with much greater frequency due to the level of exposure, strength of the sun, and reflection of the water. I always advise my patients to reapply every two hours in addition to wearing a large sun hat and seeking shade whenever possible."

What brands and formulas of SPF do you recommend to your patients?
"I primarily recommend the sunscreen that I personally developed (Sheer Fluid Sun Shield SPF 30) due to its light feel, fast absorption, and its DNA-repair complex, which offers additional anti-aging protection. I find that so many people forgo the use of sunscreen largely because they don’t like the feeling of a thick cream on their skin in the sun and heat...This one is weightless and hydrating without the chalky, white look of so many sunscreens."

What about the patients who break out easily?
"A lightweight, water-based sunscreen is an excellent option for patients who are prone to breakouts. There are a few brands of sunscreen that include acne-fighting niacinamide in their formulas, which can help prevent this issue." [Editor's note: Try Dr. Shamban’s suggestion for a light formula with niacinamide, Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46.]

How much sunscreen do you need to use on your face?
"To fully and adequately protect the skin, one needs a nickel- to quarter-sized dollop of sunscreen for the face, and an additional dollop for the neck and décolletage."
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Dr. Jason Emer
Board-certified dermatologist with a practice in Beverly Hills.

What is the minimum SPF you recommend for a day in the sun, and how often do you need to reapply?
"I tell my patients to wear at least SPF 30 for daily exposure, and then 50 plus if they know they will be exposed directly, like in a car driving with direct sunlight or at a pool, outside event, or sitting at a beach. To be fully protected, even with SPF 50 plus, you need to reapply 3-4 times per day. And do not forget lip balm with SPF to protect the lips, like Supergoop Acai Fusion Lip Balm SPF 30, and eyelid sunscreen as well, like SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50."

If you have SPF in your makeup, do you need to wear a separate sunscreen?
"Yes! Makeup should only be thought of as additional coverage. I tell my patients to use sunscreen every morning, and then they can use a powder makeup with SPF as additional coverage, which is easier to reapply during the day."

Do you have any tips for people with oily skin that tends to break out in the summer?
"Use a salicylic acid or glycolic peel or face wash before applying your sunscreen to help remove debris and oil. This allows the sun protection to work better, but also helps prevent breakouts. Also, you can mix your sunscreen with a fruit-acid cream like JanMarini Bioglycolic Bioclear Cream, which has a mixture of salicylic, lactic, azelaic acids to help prevent breakouts, and also provides moisture."