How Top Dermatologists Apply Their Own Sunscreen (Plus Their Favorite Sun Blockers)
We peppered the country’s top dermatologists with questions about their favorite sunscreens, application tips, and more. Here’s what they do in real life to stay sun-safe.
Applying sunscreen isn’t something you want to mess around with—especially come summer when we shed layers and spend long hours outdoors. You know you need to apply sunscreen—full stop. But what about all those random, more nuanced sunscreen questions that bubble up: What’s the best sunscreen for my face and lips? How often should I reapply? How can I keep my scalp from burning at my part? So we tapped the nation’s top dermatologists for need-to-know sunscreen wisdom and products they swear by, both for themselves and their families. Here’s how to save your skin from sun damage (and that red lobster glow) this season, straight from the pros.
Double (or triple) up
“I apply two coats of mineral sunscreen to my face, ears, and neck. I apply one coat, wait five minutes, and then apply a second coat. If I’m going to be in the sun for a long time, I apply three coats to my undereye area because that’s the spot that grasps the most sun.”
—Lily Talakoub, MD, of McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in McLean, Virginia
Avoid a mess
“I apply SPF in the shower. I towel dry, and then I start at the bottom of my neck and finish with my feet. I do my face and neck at my vanity. I use EltaMD UV Clear 46 because it dries quickly, doesn’t streak, and is fragrance-free.”
—Patricia Wexler, MD, a dermatologist in New York City
To buy: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $35; dermstore.com.
Protect your part
“I dust a powder sunscreen along my hair part. I only wash my hair twice a week, so slathering on a creamy sunscreen does not work for me.”
—Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine
“I store spray-on sunscreen in the refrigerator. The chilled lotion feels amazing during summer, plus the cold may help preserve its effectiveness.”
—Michelle Henry, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City
“My wife usually puts sunscreen on the kids. You never know what mood they will be in, so we always have a variety available for them to choose from. Whether it is the shape of the bottle, the color of the packaging, or the consistency, she gives them options so they won’t argue as much about putting it on.”
—Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
Never break a sweat without SPF
“I love Supergoop Mineral Sunscreen Stick for my outdoor workouts because it’s water-resistant and creates a seal on your skin. Runners have a higher risk of melanoma and atypical moles. I put a layer around my eyes so nothing drips as I perspire. I also make sure I layer it over a sunscreen lotion on my calves—one of the most common places for melanoma in women.”
—Mona Gohara, MD
To buy: Supergoop 100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 45, $24; amazon.com.
“If you are going swimming, apply sunscreen to your naked body before you put on your swimsuit. If you try to put on sunscreen and not stain your suit, you often end up missing little areas.”
—Heather D. Rogers, MD, founder of Doctor Rogers Restore Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle
“I’m a big fan of Colorescience’s Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50. I keep it in my car for last-minute detours. If my kids want to go to the park and I have makeup on and don’t want to apply sunscreen, I’ll take the powder stick right over my makeup and brush on the sunscreen. It’s fantastic.”
—Lily Talakoub, MD
To buy: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50, $65; dermstore.com.
“I love using a spray-on sunscreen as a touch-up. It’s hard to be certain that you’ve applied a spray-on sunscreen evenly, so I like lotions or creams for the initial application. But sprays are excellent for fast touch-ups, especially for moms with slippery kids who won’t stay still.”
—Michelle Henry, MD
“A lot of people forget their lips. I pick up the Neutrogena lip moisturizer with sunscreen from Walmart and apply it every so often when I’m in the sun.”
—Lily Talakoub, MD
To buy: Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer SPF 15, $3; walmart.com.
Keep it convenient
“By the pool, we keep Coppertone Water Babies Lotion Spray for reapplication after 40 minutes in the water. That’s where I think most sunscreen fails: It isn’t reapplied. People forget about doing it on time.”
—Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a dermatologist in West Islip, New York
To buy: Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion Spray SPF 50, $8; target.com.
Know your weaknesses
“I find it hard to reapply sunscreen, to be honest. Protective clothing and three-inch brimmed hats are two of the most important steps when it comes to safe sun practices. Heavy perspiration, water activities, and incomplete application make sunscreen rub off and lose effectiveness, resulting in inadequate sun protection. Clothing that’s labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating does the most effective job. The ratings range from UPF 15 (good) to 50+ (excellent). I love the brand Mott50.”
—Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, founder of Entière Dermatology in New York City
To buy: Lucia LS One Piece Suit with Front Zip, $118; amazon.com.