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Ask a Redhead: Best Sunscreens + Redhead Sun Safety 101

Do You Know Your Sunscreen Facts?

Every week, we put out a call for your redhead questions. This gives you a chance to get advice or input from our team of redheads. From beauty and fashion to lifestyle, redheads are in a unique boat, and we want to help make this community a place where you can turn for all your redhead needs. 

We’ve received a few questions from Instagram about SPF, sun protection factor, and sun safety for redhead skin. We’ve decided to dive into all things SPF so you can stay better protected this spring/summer:

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1. Know your facts: redheads are at a higher risk for skin cancer 

The topic of sun safety is such an important one, especially for redheads. Redheads run a much higher risk of developing skin cancer and have to take extra precautions when it comes to being out in the sun. Redheads have a higher risk of developing skin cancer because they often have fair skin, freckles, and light eyes, which are all associated with lower levels of melanin. Melanin helps protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation, so lower levels of melanin mean less protection from the sun’s rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer. It’s unknown what the exact risk factor is for redheads, as it varies from person to person, but research shows it may be anywhere from 10 to 100 times more than someone without red hair

2. Sunscreen is the best tool to block out harmful rays

Wearing SPF and practicing good sun safety is the best way to prevent skin cancer. SPF is effective in preventing skin cancer because it blocks harmful UV radiation from damaging the skin. It acts as a shield, reducing the amount of UV radiation that reaches the skin and thus decreasing the risk of sunburn, skin aging, and skin cancer. Applying SPF regularly helps protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, which are major contributors to skin damage and cancer.

SPF 30 blocks out 97% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, which will greatly reduce your risk of exposure. Although no SPF can block out 100% of harmful rays, it can be a great tool to keep your skin safe if applied properly. 

It’s also important to know that you must use SPF sunscreen whenever the UV index is over 0. The UV index measures the intensity of UV radiation from the sun, and even on cloudy or overcast days, UV radiation can still reach your skin and cause damage. Wearing SPF sunscreen helps protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation and reduces the risk of sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.

Here is a helpful graph on when to wear sunscreen:

3. Invest in protective clothing 

Although SPF sunscreen is always recommended, it doesn’t block out 100% of sun rays because it’s not possible to create a sunscreen that provides complete protection against all UV radiation. While SPF sunscreen does provide significant protection by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering UV rays, it’s challenging to formulate a product that can completely block all UV radiation without being impractical or uncomfortable to use. Additionally, factors such as sweat, water, and rubbing can reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen, so reapplication is necessary for continued protection.

That’s why redheads should also wear protective clothing and limit time in the sun. Protective clothing is helpful for preventing sunburns because it physically blocks UV radiation from reaching the skin. Fabrics with a tight weave and dark colors offer better protection than lighter colors and looser weaves. Additionally, some clothing is specially designed to provide UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) ratings, indicating their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Wearing protective clothing, along with using sunscreen and seeking shade, can significantly reduce the risk of sunburns and skin cancer.

Remember, SPF is a great defense, but still leaves a window for sunburn and skin damage. Proper sun safety includes a combination of tactics to help keep your skin safe. 

4. Pick a good redhead-approved sunscreen 

Broad spectrum SPF is the best choice for redheads since it blocks out both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen should be applied as the last step in your skincare (before makeup) and reapplied approximately every 2 hours. Redheads should look for sensitive skin-friendly sunscreens and opt for “sweatproof” / “water-resistant” brands if they plan to be in the water or active.

Sweatproof and “waterproof” are terms used to describe the effectiveness of sunscreen or other products in maintaining their protective properties when exposed to sweat or water. “Sweatproof” means that the product is designed to resist being washed away by sweat, making it more suitable for activities that cause sweating, such as sports or outdoor work. However, sweatproof products may still require reapplication after sweating heavily or swimming. “Waterproof” means that the product is designed to maintain its protective properties even when exposed to water, such as swimming or water sports. However, it’s important to note that no sunscreen is truly waterproof, as all products will eventually wash off with prolonged water exposure. The term “water-resistant” is often used instead, indicating that the product provides some degree of protection in water but may need to be reapplied after swimming or sweating.

Take a scroll through our favorite brands and products:

6 Clean & Affordable Sunscreens Redheads Can Wear Under Their Makeup

11 Best Sunscreens for Redhead Men

5 New Sunscreen Products Redheads Should Know About: Tested By Editors

Dermatologist-Approved Sunscreen Products for Redheads

5. Know the difference between a burn and freckles 

Most redheads have had a sunburn at some point in their life, and while sunburn isn’t the end of the world, it is an indicator that your skin has received too much unprotected sun and may become damaged. Freckles, on the other hand, may also come out when you get sun but are not a sign of sun damage or skin cancer. Freckles are naturally occurring and can appear on healthy skin when exposed to the sun

Freckles are small brown spots on the skin that are caused by an increase in melanin production in response to sun exposure. They are usually permanent and more commonly found in individuals with fair skin.

A sunburn, on the other hand, is redness and inflammation of the skin caused by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun. It occurs when the skin’s DNA is damaged by UV rays, leading to inflammation as the body’s immune system responds to repair the damage. Sunburns are temporary but can be painful and increase the risk of skin cancer over time.

Want your redhead question answered? Find us @howtobearedhead on Instagram and Facebook and look for the Ask a Redhead question box!

Rock it like a Redhead! 


READ: BUSTED: 7 Myths Redheads Should Know About SPF And Sunscreen

READ: Sunscreen vs. Sunblock vs. SPF: What’s The Best Option for Redheads?