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Get Your RDA of SPF When You Live in San Diego

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San Diego. For those of us lucky enough to live here, we know it’s about as close as you can get to living in paradise. When you’re standing atop Mt. Helix looking out at the most color-drenched sunset this side of a Maxwell Parrish painting, with the tang of salt in the air and warm breezes caressing your skin, it’s tempting to feel like you could stay outdoors forever in San Diego’s eternal summer.

But unlike the adorable seals sunbathing on the beach at La Jolla, we humans need a little extra protection when basking in the sun’s delicious glow. No matter how pale or dark your skin tone, you need to be on point with your sunscreen habits if you want to enjoy a lifetime of San Diegan sun and surf without prematurely aging your skin, or worse—ending up with skin disease.

With so many sunscreens on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? Here’s a quick primer on how sunscreen works and how to choose the right one to fit into your skin care regimen.

First of all, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen like SkinMedica's Total Defense + Repair Sunscreen SPF 50, meaning that it’s effective against both the ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) spectrums of light. UVA penetrates to the deepest layers of the skin, causes photoaging like wrinkling and sagging, and may initiate skin cancer. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but that gorgeous tan you got during that free-spirited trip to Black’s Beach (which we all know is the best beach in San Diego…) was actually your skin trying to defend itself against the cellular DNA damage and mutations created by UVA rays. UVB affects the outermost layers of the skin and is the cause of your sunburn and a contributor to photoaging, as well as being a major factor in skin cancer.

Choose your SPF wisely. Technically, the number refers to how long you can stay in the sun without burning—an SPF of 15 means you can be in the sun 15 times longer than you could be without any protection. But that doesn’t mean that your sunscreen will last that long—especially not with the typical San Diego outdoor lifestyle! It’s better to think of it in terms of percentages:

  • SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30 blocks about 97%
  • SPF 50 blocks about 98%

Regardless of the strength of your SPF, however, you should be applying sunscreen every two hours, starting a half hour before you go outside in order for it to be completely absorbed. You should also re-apply it after a swim, a sweat, or a surf. And don’t skimp—most people get much less protection than they think they have because they use sunscreen far too sparingly. Just because you’re taking a leisurely day walking Balboa Park or hiking in Torrey doesn’t mean you can go light or skip re-applying it. Here in sunny San Diego, we need to master the art of application to get full protection.

The last thing you need to know is that if your skin is sensitive, you’ll want to stick to sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the main ingredients. These are the only two ingredients that physically block and scatter UV rays before they penetrate, and they are much gentler than chemical ingredients like PABA which function as absorbers, transforming the radiation into heat energy to be released from the skin.

Invest in a high-quality sunscreen like Obagi’s Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50, and you’ll not only get a gentle formula that works for most skin types, but also nourishing skin ingredients like vitamin C to brighten your complexion and give you that perfect beach beauty glow!

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