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May 21, 2020

How to protect your face from the sun — and why you need to. A woman applies sunscreen to another woman's face.

Most of us know that we should be wearing sunscreen on our faces every day, but we don’t necessarily know why this is important, or how to work it into our skin and beauty routine.

Let’s start with the “why”.

If you’ve read our blog on the importance of wearing sunscreen in winter, you’ll know that UV rays are still out and about even in the cooler, cloudier weather. Professional make up artist Micaela Hone (@the_holistic_makeup_artist), who’s an expert on clean beauty and skincare, explains that the sun’s rays are the number one cause of ageing and damage to our skin. This is particularly true in Australia, where our sun is especially harsh.

“From a health point of view, you obviously want to stop yourself getting skin cancers and precancerous cells,” says Micaela. “But from a purely aesthetic point of view, the sun causes ageing, it causes damage, it causes thickening in your skin when it reacts to the sun. Even if you’re not getting pigmentation or freckles or tanning, your skin will harden and get tougher. That thickened skin that you’re getting, it just looks older. You get all those things — lines, loss of elasticity — from not using sunscreen.” 

How to protect your face from the sun — and why you need to. Clean beauty expert Micaela Hone.

This damage might not be seen until years down the track, so the practice of applying sunscreen now is something your future self will thank you for. Micaela says that sunscreen is the cheapest and most important anti-ageing product you can buy, and that beauty procedures such as laser or peels are worthless if you’re not protecting your skin with mineral sunscreen in the first place.

And while our UV exposure in the colder months might not look like lying on a beach all day, it all adds up. Skin damage is cumulative, so fifteen minutes spent walking or waiting outside for a coffee here and there makes a difference. We can even experience sun damage thanks to UV rays streaming in through a window while we’re sitting inside or driving (not to mention new studies that suggest blue light from computer screens causes damage!).

Micaela says if you’re concerned about Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun exposure, the face is the last place we want to be exposing to the sun.

“If you do want to get Vitamin D, you’d rather get it on a fattier part of your body. You want to get it on your legs and your stomach. By the time you absorb enough Vitamin D from the sun on our face, you’ve done so much damage. It’s just not worth it.”

The good news is that while it’s never too early to start wearing sunscreen, it’s also never too late. The easiest way to protect your face from sun damage, according to Micaela, is to make sunscreen a part of your daily skincare and beauty routine.

Which brings us to the “how”. 

“You want to use your sunscreen as the last step of your skincare and just before you start your make up,” says Micaela.

If you’ve got your morning routine down pat, this would mean cleansing the skin, applying a lighter serum followed by a thicker moisturiser, waiting five or ten minutes, then applying your zinc sunscreen and any make up. Sunscreen should also be applied to the backs of your hands and your chest and neck. 

“It’s good to play around with your make up and see what works well. Often I find that if I use a zinc sunscreen I don’t need to use primer. Sometimes you might find that using zinc makes your skin a bit lighter, so you just make allowances for that. I use a bit of bronzer,” says Micaela. 

“What goes really well together is zinc sunscreen and mineral powder. Mineral powder has a natural SPF in it as well, so you’re kind of locking the two in together. The benefit of that is also that if you want to re-apply during the day, the zinc oxide makes the mineral powder last really well and then you can dust on more mineral over the top and it will grab.” 

As far as mineral powders go, Micaela recommends Jane Iredale or Australian brand Inika

And because zinc clings to the skin, we should be cleansing twice to remove zinc residue at the end of the day. 

It might sound like a lot — especially if you’re a person of the low-maintenance variety — but your skin is with you for, well, your entire life, so it’s important to take care of it. At the very least, getting into the habit of cleansing and moisturising morning and night and applying sunscreen in the daytime will put you on the path towards happy, healthy skin.