Sun Shield

The definitive guide to protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun

During any season in Las Vegas—especially pool season—it is vital to arm oneself with a sufficient amount of SPF. Although we all hate the sticky mess it leaves on our hands and body, sunscreen is essential to use daily as it absorbs, reflects and protects the epidermis from invisible damage. Don’t be fooled by the cloudy weather that comes during monsoon time—the sun’s rays can still wreak havoc. With the sometimes-confusing array of sprays, wax sticks, creams, gels, cosmetic formulas and lotions on the market, it is important to be armed with a working knowledge of what products to check out, common myths and what to keep in mind when buying.

What’s my SPF?

Look for products with both UVA and UVB protection. There should be a label on the front of the bottle stating just that. The Skin Cancer Foundation maintains a Sun Protection Factor of 15 or higher is sufficient to safeguard skin as long as it is reapplied throughout the day. I suggest wearing an SPF 15 to 30 on your face and SPF 45 to 80 on your body for outdoor activities. Be aware of ingredients, which are the key to the type of protection a product provides. Study the back label: Avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a. Mexoryl), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the best tools.

Cosmetics with sunscreen

While many companies are adding sun protection to cosmetics, this alone will not protect the skin all day. Start with a moisturizer that has an SPF of 15 or higher, and then apply makeup that contains SPF. Seal in this protection with a cosmetic powder that contains zinc oxide, which will act as a barrier against sun damage. The key to healthy skin is layers. Be knowledgeable about the products that you are using. Many potions and lotions are marketed with false information.

Four common myths

  1. Spray-on sunscreen is better for the skin. Although this method is much easier to use, it is crucial that you rub it in after you spray it on. If not, there will be blotches where the sunscreen absorbed and where it didn’t. Since this product is not as thick as most sunscreens, you must also use more to evenly cover your whole body.
  2. Sunscreen can protect all day. Sunscreen should be applied one half-hour before you go outside and reapplied every two hours.
  3. If I am wearing a self-tanner, I do not need to wear sunscreen. Self-tanners only have an SPF of 4, so you must still apply
    a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher on top of the self-tanner.
  4. Waterproof sunscreen does not need to be reapplied. Regardless if a sunscreen claims to be waterproof, it must be reapplied every two hours. The FDA states that waterproof sunscreen only protects for 40 minutes of sun exposure.

Products Containing Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide for UVA/UVB Protection:

  • Solbar Zinc SPF 38 by Solbar,, $14.

  • Dermalogica Super Sensitive FaceBlock SPF 30, $45.

  • Blue Lizard for Sensitive Skin SPF 30, $17.

  • Elta MD UV Daily SPF 40,, $24.

  • Skin Ceuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50,, $30.

  • Badger Unscented Natural Sunscreen SPF 30,, $16.