Hollywood’s Favorite Dermatologist On Why Sunscreen Needs to Be Your Beauty New Year’s Resolution For 2018

Dr. Harold Lancer breaks down the importance of wearing SPF.

Photographer: Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin Stylist: Alex White

While it may be safe to assume that the use of sunscreen is only necessary for those summer beach days, especially when we are focused on dry skin during the grueling cold months of winter, dermatologist to Hollywood’s elite, Dr. Harold Lancer is here to prove otherwise. Stressing the importance of sunscreen regardless of your location, time zone, and season of the year, Dr. Lancer explains why the daily use of sunscreen is crucial to our health. From different types of sunscreens to the proper application, Dr. Lancer breaks down all things sunscreen and why it should be your new healthy habit for 2018.

When it comes to wearing sunscreen during the winter months, why do most people assume that they don’t have to wear sunscreen?

Generally speaking, less than 15% of the world population uses sunscreen ever. That was one of those statistical studies that came across in the Academy of Literature. Everybody thinks that they are bullet proof, so the use of sunscreen is relatively low compared too what the public might think. People usually use sunscreen badly; they don’t apply it properly, they apply it once in the morning and they think it’s good all day because they believe the false advertising of “all day, waterproof” etc. which is not true. They also think that in the winter that because it gets dark earlier, there isn’t much light around, so what the hell? And the answer to that is that you wear sunscreen in the winter time because if you can see where you are going, if there is enough light to stimulate the retina, there’s enough light to stimulate melanocytes and aging factors in the skin. It’s not just a sunlight, it’s light all together that damages the skin. It’s room light, laptop light, fluorescent light, window glass transmitted light, wherever there’s light and you can see where you are going, the skin needs sunscreen. People assume that it’s a beach day product, but the majority of people get their worst sunburns during beach weather because they don’t apply it properly, so it’s a matter of application. It’s not a beach thing, it’s a light exposure thing, not just sunlight exposure.

What are the biggest misconceptions about skincare and the sun? Why is it important to wear sunscreen and how do you know if your sunscreen is working?

If people aren’t going to do it for cosmetic reasons, they should do it as least to prevent skin cancer as motivation that wearing sunscreen is worthwhile for a health reason. You know your sunscreen is working if you make it habit. If you make it a habitual part of your daily routine, you know the chances are with repetitive application, it’s going to work and you know it’s going to work because your’e not going to have areas of skin color that are different than the areas exposed.

What are the benefits of wearing sunscreen daily and what disadvantages are we setting our skin up for if we don’t wear sunscreen?

The benefits are for most people is the prevention of skin cancer, and for those that don’t care, because believe it or not, there are people that don’t care about that, then it’s beauty. Most people care about beauty, they care about their appearance. They use sunscreen to reduce collagen decay, because you want to keep that baby fresh, bouncy, rosy, translucent complexion from head to toe.

What is the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreens are physical sunscreens, which means that they actually physically reflect or deflect both ultraviolet and visible light from the skin’s surface. There is a physical block that’s deflecting light, it’s like a bullet proof vest. A chemical sunscreen, you have chemicals that actually absorb the photons or the components of light and dissipate their reactive oxygen species or rusting effect of light.

Should your sunscreen differ by your skin type? Do SPFs over 50 really work?

Your sunscreen use should be dictated by what you’re actually going to use and that’s a preference. Everybody has a different preference for the feel, smell, and odor of sunscreen, so whatever you’re going to use, you should use. To make sure you are not allergic to it, I always tell patients to test the sunscreen on the fresh, delicate skin behind their ear to make sure they are not allergic. Anything that’s SPF 15 and above is around a 95% light blocker; SPF 30 blocks around 97-98% of light and if you apply it every two hours, it might has well be SPF 50 million. When you get to the SPF 50, 75, etc., you may be paying more for them, but if you use them incorrectly they are not doing anything for you because at an SPF 30, you’re already at an 97-98% and if applied every two hours then it really doesn’t matter at all.

What is the proper way to layer sunscreen within your skincare routine to get the most effective results?

Layering sunscreen is important, because you have to have sunscreen be attracted and absorb into the stratum corneum in order for it to stay and become active. That’s why sunscreen has to be applied at least a half hour before light exposure. For the average young woman on the go, you polish, rinse, cleanse, rinse, you put on the sunscreen, nourish, and that’s the order it should be on. If you put sunscreen after your nourishing agent or makeup, it’s useless.

When is the sun most harmful during the day? How do you recommend reapplying?

Usually, depending where you are on the planet during the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. are the highest UV transmitting parts of the day whether it’s cloudy, snowy, or rainy. No matter what the weather looks like between the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., it is the highest radiation content. And in terms of reapplication, most women when they wear cosmetic colored products have to freshen them, so if you are going put on some more blush or lipstick, you as well put on a little lip balm with SPF or a little more sunscreen to your face.

Do makeup products such as tinted moisturizers, creams, lip balms, foundations, etc. mixed with SPF really work? Or is best to wear the products separately?

The truth of the matter is, cosmetic products with sunscreen components or light shield components is basically a marketing concept to get you to use the product because when you start mixing sunscreen with other components it interferes with the chemistry of the product. You should always use sunscreen first and then you can use a cosmetic product with additional sunscreen because it does no harm, but if you just rely on a cosmetic product for the sunscreen you’re fooling yourself.

What parts of the body are often missed and are left vulnerable to the sun?

Probably the most common error in the women category, is the sides of the neck and the décolleté are the most neglected areas. The worst sun damage that I have to repair with lasers are the sides of the neck and the décolleté.

Is sun damage reversible? What treatments do you recommend to help reverse the signs of sun damage?

I wouldn’t say it’s reversible. Reversible means, medically speaking, you can’t totally repair DNA. You can repair sun damage, you can reduce sun damage, but the skin will always have a permanent memory that it was abused. So when it comes to fixing something, there are medical rehabilitations processes we use to reverse or improve sun damages issues and there are usually procedures that follow that involve various forms of radio frequency resurfacing. Radio frequency resurfacing is a much briefer 2-3 day healing period than a laser induced 5-10 healing period. There are resurfacing methods to help reduce the sun damage visible effect, but the trend now is to do things that have less than two to three days of healing.

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