Woman applying SPF

A Guide to SPF: Sun Protection + Skin Health

Applying sunscreen daily is an absolute must for protecting your skin from premature aging, sunspots, and skin cancer. In this guide from NM Aesthetics, the top skincare experts in Arlington, VA, we'll break down what a physical sunscreen is, what nano vs non nano mineral sunscreens are and why it matters. Consider this your complete guide to sunscreen so you can ensure you're getting maximum UV protection every single day.

Physical/Mineral Sunscreens

Physical sunscreens use mineral active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to deflect and scatter UV rays away from the skin. Unlike chemical sunscreens that absorb rays, these minerals act like a physical barrier and sit on top of your skin.

Why we love physical sunscreens:

  • Provide protection immediately upon application
  • Ideal for sensitive skin types since minerals are less likely to cause irritation
  • Don't get absorbed into the bloodstream
  • More stable and don't degrade as quickly in sunlight as chemical filters
  • Effective broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays
Nano vs Non Nano Mineral Sunscreens

Nano and non-nano refer to the size of the mineral particles used in mineral sunscreens.

Non-Nano, or micronised, Mineral Sunscreens:

  • Contain larger mineral particles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, typically above 100 nanometers in size.
  • Form a physical barrier on the skin's surface that reflects and scatters UV rays.
  • Non-nano mineral sunscreens are considered safer for marine life. They do not dissolve in seawater when it comes off skin, but instead rapidly settles to the seafloor and becomes part of the sediment.

Nano Mineral Sunscreens:

  • Contain nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, typically less than 100 nanometers in size.
  • The smaller particle size makes them easier to spread but,
  • According to EWG, some research has shown that nanoparticles can still be absorbed through the skin and lead to toxic side effects in skin cells.
  • Nano mineral sunscreen is less safe for marine life as it dissolves in the seawater which can adversely affect wildlife, water habitats or the animals that use them. 
How Much Sunscreen to Apply

No matter which formula you use, sunscreen is only as effective as how generously you apply it. Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount, putting themselves at risk of burning or UV damage.

Follow this guide for how much sunscreen to use for full protection at the labeled SPF level:

Face and Neck: Apply 1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon

Body: Apply 1 oz (a full shot glass)

Pro Tip: If you can rub the sunscreen in fully and don't see any white cast or residue on skin, that means you likely haven't applied enough.

The sunscreen should form an even, visible layer on skin that you have to spend some time massaging in. Don't be afraid to apply more - sunscreen can never be truly over-applied.

Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors for extended periods, or immediately after swimming, sweating profusely, or toweling off.

Top Sunscreen Recommendations

Best Overall SPF:
Image Skincare Prevention+ Daily Hydrating Moisturizer SPF 30+

We LOVE that this sunscreen blends well into virtually any skin tone!

Best Tinted SPF: 
Image Skincare Prevention+ Daily Tinted Hydrating Moisturizer SPF 30+

Best Sheer SPF: 
Biojuve Sheer Finish SPF 50

Best SPF for Acne: 
Alastin Hydratint Pro Mineral SPF 36

Sunscreen is essential to maintain a youthful, healthy, and protected skin. At NM Aesthetics, we'll help you find the ideal SPF and walk you through proper application techniques. Whatever sunscreen you choose, make sure you're applying generously and reapplying often for all-day protection from harmful rays.

Shop our full line of professional grade SPFs here

Make an appointment today with the top master estheticians in Arlington, VA to create your customized skincare plan.

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