The #1 Way to Help Your Skin Look Younger, According to a Dermatologist

Learn why you should always look for this ingredient in your daily moisturizer.

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woman applying face cream
Photo: Getty Images/LaylaBird

I feel like my skin has aged five years in the last year, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. And it turns out, it may be because I haven't been wearing sunscreen every day (yep, even on days when it's cold or cloudy outside). It may feel like a weird time to be talking about SPF, but many dermatologists will argue that it's not. In fact, any day is a good day for SPF. We dove into the science and talked with Dr. Sarah Sawyer, fellowship-trained, board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology & Laser in Birmingham, Alabama, about the best ways to keep your skin looking and feeling young. Plus, we got more information on the importance of SPF in our day-to-day routines.

The sun is vital to our physical and mental health, but it can also be damaging if we approach it the wrong way. Ultraviolet rays are not blocked by clouds and are not affected by hot or cold weather. Even if it doesn't feel like you are "soaking up the rays", chances are that you probably are. The American Academy of Dermatology echoes that people should use sunscreen every day they're outside. They add that, even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun's harmful rays can penetrate your skin, and snow, sand and water can reflect it to make it even more potent. Due to this, skin cancer rates are on the rise and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

Aside from protecting your skin from skin cancer and nasty sunburns, SPF has some serious anti-aging benefits, too. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people reported daily use of sunscreen and dietary antioxidants has little to no signs of skin photo-aging in 4.5 years. Another study in Dermatologic Surgery reported that people who applied a broad spectrum daily saw significant improvements in skin texture, clarity and pigmentation after 12 weeks and continued to see improvements over 52 weeks.

Dr. Sawyer agrees and says that slathering on SPF is the #1 thing you can do to keep your skin looking younger. "Wearing sunscreen every single day, no matter what, is the most important preventive measure you can take to fight aging," advises Sawyer. Choosing a daily moisturizer with SPF in it will help you get ahead of harmful sun exposure without thinking about it.

Dr. Sawyer says not to skimp on product, either: "A daily moisturizer with SPF may help in simplifying our skincare routines, but the trick is applying enough of the product to receive the full benefit of the SPF level that's printed on the label." She adds, "When you mix your SPF with another medium like moisturizer, you run the risk of diluting your sunscreen's effectiveness. Many sunscreens are elegantly made, and do not require using a moisturizer with them."

There are two types of UV rays that come from the sun, both of which are classified as carcinogens by the Department of Health and Human Services. UVA rays age your skin, causing wrinkles and sunspots over time, while UVB rays burn your skin. Broad-spectrum sunscreens can block both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. There are physical and chemical sunscreens as well. "Physical ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and iron oxide are inert and block the sun better than chemical sunscreens," says Sawyer, "I recommend applying a physical sunscreen each morning after your serums and moisturizer. Don't forget your eye protection and lip protection!"

Daily SPF Moisturizers to Try

The FDA requires that sunscreens retain their strength for at least three years, but if you are using it every day, most bottles will not last that long. Here are some of our favorites, plus Dr. Sawyer's go-to sunscreen.

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30

Not only is this product the most affordable, but it is dermatologist-recommended. "For an over-the-counter option, Cerave's Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 is a favorite. It absorbs quickly, with a matte finish and no white cast."

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30


La Roche-Posay Broad Spectrum SPF 15

Though this product is a little more expensive, it is worth the splurge if you can swing it. It makes my skin so soft and glowy all day. I actually prefer how it makes my skin feel compared to non-SPF oils and moisturizers.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Face Moisturizer Cream with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15

la roche

Babo Botanicals Sheer Mineral Face Sunscreen

For a sensitive skin-friendly option, try Babo Botanicals Sheer Moisturizer with SPF. It is fragrance-free, vegan and hypoallergenic. It is also safe for kids and babies.

Babo Botanicals Daily Sheer Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40

babo botanicals

SkinCeuticals Daily Moisturizer

This is the priciest SPF on our list, but it's Dr. Sawyer's top choice if you are willing to spend a little extra. She says, "I love the SkinCeuticals Daily Moisturizer for lightweight, everyday hydration and the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid 2:4:2 as an anti-aging moisturizer to improve elastic and the appearance of fine lines."

SkinCeuticals Daily Moisturizer

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