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Sunscreen is the most effective way to shield your skin from harmful UV rays, which are the primary cause for premature aging. With so many options available though, it’s not always easy to find a formula you love. Use this mini guide to help you better understand your sunscreen options and choose the best one for your skin.


What are the different types of sunscreens?


Mineral sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens, which are also known as physical sunscreens, contain minerals like zinc oxide and titanium oxide. They act like a shield on top of your skin to deflect harmful rays from the sun. Mineral sunscreens are often best for people with sensitive skin since they rarely cause irritation. They also start to protect skin immediately and tend to last longer than other types of sunscreens when they’re applied correctly.


Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens operate more like a sponge than a shield, absorbing UV light when it contacts skin and then disbursing the rays as heat. Because of how these types of sunscreens work, chemical sunscreens should be applied 10 to 15 minutes before sun exposure for the most protection.


Sheer & tinted sunscreens

Both mineral and chemical sunscreens come in a variety of options, including sheer and tinted versions. Sheer sunscreens are colorless—though they may still have a white cast to them if they’re mineral sunscreens because of the zinc or titanium oxide in them. The colorless nature of sheer sunscreens make them easy to wear under makeup year-round. On the other hand, tinted sunscreens have a flesh tone. Depending on your coverage preferences, tinted sunscreens can be used alone or over makeup.


How often to apply sunscreen

Regardless of whether you choose a mineral or chemical sunscreen, you should reapply yours every two hours or sooner if you’ve been sweating or swimming. For best results, always follow the directions on your specific container of sunscreen.


Where’s the best place to buy sunscreen?

While you can find effective mineral and chemical sunscreens at almost any store, Gundersen offers a wide selection of professional-grade options in Cosmetic Services, which includes our Dermatology and Plastic Surgery departments. Shop for your favorite brands (or discover a new one) in person or shop online:

Sunscreen brands available in Dermatology: Elta MD, Revision Intellishade, Colorescience, Glytone, TIZO & Avène

Sunscreen brands available in Plastic Surgery: Revision Intellishade SPF collection, ZO Skin Health Broad Spectrum SPF (Smart Tone and Daily Sheer), Skinbetter Science SPF Tonesmart and Sheer (lotions and compacts)


Not sure what sunscreen is right for you?

Book a complimentary skincare consultation! In this one-on-one session, a medical skincare technician will analyze your skin's needs and offer personalized recommendations to optimize your skin’s health. Schedule today in:

Dermatology, Onalaska Clinic, Level 3: (608) 775-2382 

Plastic Surgery, La Crosse Campus, East Building, Level 5: (608) 775-2376 


Looking for more sunscreen tips and tricks? We’ve got you covered with:

Does my makeup protect me from the sun?

Simple ways to relieve sunburn

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