In this new series with writer James Barrett, we get an honest look at beauty from a fresh perspective. Called (skincare) Virgin Diaries, James takes us through his own skincare journey – the highs, the lows – and everything in between. ⚡️ To read the first article in this installment where James talks about what led him on this journey, and how he plans to develop a skincare routine for the first time, click here.
Virgins, we need to talk about protection.
No, not THAT kind of protection (although it is important). In developing a skin routine for the very first time (better late than never), last month we explored different types of cleansers. Usually, SPF comes later in a skincare routine, but I want to talk about it because, well, it’s really important and often overlooked. Even when it’s not sunny, you should be applying sunscreen every day.
Did you know that products claiming to provide broad-spectrum SPF are regulated as sunscreen drug products? Yes – that means that sunscreen (or any product with SPF) is regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Serious stuff, I know.
Now please don’t hate me and learn from my mistakes, but I am a first-class offender for not wearing sunscreen. This summer I wore sunscreen only a handful of times and I was outside all the time. With my Greek background, it takes a lot for my olive skin to burn. I love being tan and somehow I validated that as a good enough excuse to skip applying sunscreen to my face. Here’s a secret: you can still get tan when you wear sunscreen.
As someone who’s dabbled in beachy sunscreen brands like Banana Boat, I’ve never looked at SPF from the lens of skincare. I learned that there are two different types of SPF: mineral and chemical. Mineral sunscreen forms a barrier on the surface of the skin when applied that helps reflect UV rays away from the skin. Ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are the only FDA-approved mineral sunscreen ingredients.
Chemical sunscreen penetrates the top layers of the skin to absorb UV rays. The filters absorb damaging UV rays before they can damage your skin. Ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.
Cheatsheet: mineral sunscreen reflects UV rays away from your skin, while chemical sunscreen absorbs UV rays before damaging your skin. You only need a dime-sized amount of sunscreen to apply to your face. Here are some that I tried out, sunburn-free.
Hot Take: A great quality heavy duty mineral sunscreen – perfect for long days in the sun.
This sunscreen (SPF 30) will get the job done, and then some. I mistakenly didn’t wash my hands after applying and got it all over my bathing suit, so watch out for that. While the off-white pigment of the cream is hard to completely blend on your face, I felt safe under the sun knowing that I wouldn’t get sunburnt. It wasn’t oily at all, and it felt very matte. As I mentioned last month, The Ordinary’s price points are low, but their quality is at the head of the pack.
Hot Take: The grown-up sunscreen that is just as stylish as it is effective.
You really can’t go wrong with Aesop. Like their cleanser, the mature scent of their sunscreen (SPF 25) makes me feel like I’m leveling up when I wear it. I’m not a boy anymore…I’m a man with a skincare routine. The unique bottle looks nice enough that I’d want to flaunt it and makes putting sunscreen on cool. It’s a great choice to use if you’re looking to try a chemical lotion.
Hot Take: One of the strongest sunscreens on the market.
Naturopathica means business with its SPF 50. The brand boasts a sense of luxury, without the outlandish prices. As the highest SPF I tried, this product shows how protective this mineral sunscreen can be, and it’s clear that the product is above average quality.
Hot Take: Obsessed. That is all.
I was hesitant at first with Glossier because I thought the brand might be overhyped. Well, I’m here to tell you that as the first Glossier product I’ve ever tried, I will be back for more. It doesn’t even feel (or smell) like I’m putting SPF on. The lotion is clear so I don’t have to worry about white streaks on my face. Overall, it’s a winner.
Hot Take: If you’re worried about irritating your skin, then CeraVe is your go-to.
CeraVe is a great brand across the board. Whenever I use CeraVe, I know exactly what I’m getting: great quality for the price. The CeraVe TikTok hype is so real. I picked their SPF up at CVS which was super convenient if you need something last-minute and can’t wait for something you order online to be delivered. This SPF is cheap, accessible, and gets the job done.
As the season’s change (bye to the summer that slipped away), it’s important to continue to still wear sunscreen. Sure, your tan might look nice but do you want to look wrinkly by the time you’re 35? Choosing a mineral or chemical lotion is completely up to you—one is not better than the other—rather, choose one that fits your lifestyle.
Now that the skin is protected, next month we’re going to follow up on the cleanser with…toner!
(Photography by Eliana Petrides @maisonhliana)