If you were going to pick only one beauty category to go clean with, sun protection is it. Just as the chemicals in conventional sunscreens can kill coral in the ocean, they also cause problems in your skin by increasing inflammation—the root cause of most aging. So beyond the potential endocrine disruptors and cancer causers in conventional synthetic beauty products, mineral or physical sunblocks are without a doubt the most effective anti-aging cream on the planet.
There are other benefits, too: “I love mineral formulas—those with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide—because they don’t clog pores, don’t cause allergic reactions, they work the minute you put them on—you don’t have to wait twenty minutes the way you do with chemical formulas,” says Dr. Amy Wechsler, New York dermatologist and adjunct professor of psychiatry at Cornell. “Zinc, for instance, is what’s in Desitin or Balmex—it’s soothing, so it’s especially good for sensitive skin. Minerals sit on the surface of your skin, they don’t penetrate into the skin or get into the pores, which is great.”
Wechsler wears SPF every day and she often likes to layer different formulas, especially at the beach. “I’m super diligent—I’m a dermatologist, of course, but also I have melasma, so it’s essential for me. And at the beach, I wear a rash guard, a baseball hat, and sunglasses—and I reapply like a crazy person.” At the same time, Wechsler believes firmly in vitamin D supplementation. “Get tested—lots of people don’t get enough,” she says. “Wear the SPF, supplement with D3. It’s the healthiest solution.”
What about the mood-lifting benefits of being in the sun? “They did the best study ever,” she says. “They put people in tanning beds, half of which secretly filtered out the UV rays: The change in mood between the two groups turned out to be identical. The mood-improving benefits come from visible light, not UV light. So put on your SPF and enjoy the sun!”