Two questions about choosing an everyday SPF face moisturizer: 1) What SPF do I really need? 2) How much credence to give the Environmental Working Group's sunscreen ratings?
I'm in my late 20s and I have very pale, freckly, dry skin -- so I make it a priority to put an SPF moisturizer on my face every morning. For the past couple of years I've been using Neutrogena Healthy Defense SPF 45
. I like that it has a relatively high SPF and it doesn't make my skin go crazy (most products do). My current bottle is running low and I'm considering switching to something else, possibly tinted (my face has been breaking out much more frequently lately and I'd love to have an all-in-one product that would even out my skin tone a little bit). The current frontrunner is Boots No. 7 Soft and Sheer SPF 15
, but I'm concerned about the drop in SPF.
On a normal day I'll spend between 20 minutes and an hour walking outside (if I know I'm going to be spending substantially more time outside than that, I'll usually put on a more heavy-duty (SPF 60+) sunscreen). On top of the time fully exposed to the sun, I spend maybe 40 minutes a day driving, and a negligible amount of time sitting near windows at home and at work. What SPF do I actually need in a daily moisturizer?
At what point are there diminishing returns? Is it significantly worse for my skin to use SPF 15 instead of SPF 45? There are so many conflicting opinions out there and much of it is framed as dramatically as possible that I have no idea how to figure this out.
I'm also not sure how worried I should be about the "potentially hazardous" chemicals that the Environmental Working Group seems to say are in all but the most expensive sunscreens. I definitely can't afford to spend $40 on a moisturizer, but I don't know how much credence to put into the claims that some sunscreens do more damage to your skin than the UV rays they protect you from. The EWG rates my current moisturizer as a 7, which falls within the "avoid" range. Should I actually be avoiding the chemicals that the EWG is vilifying?
I'd love some links to meta-analyses of sunscreen effectiveness, or at least science-based analysis that isn't grounded in fear-mongering. The Metafilter community is often good at cutting through all the pseudo-scientific hand-wringing and dealing with these types of things pragmatically.