The Ultimate Sunscreen Guide: Austin, Texas Edition

Is your skin screaming for some serious SPF this summer? Even if you don’t realize it, the answer is yes. As a top day spa and med spa, we are experts when it comes to all things skin care. And as an Austin, Texas company, we like to think we know a thing or two about sun exposure. Living in Texas keeps us in a near-constant state of sunbathing. Whether it’s a refreshing swim at Barton Springs, waiting in line at P. Terry’s, or driving over to H-E-B, our skin is under a steady barrage of the sun’s incredibly damaging UV rays. So how do we keep the sun fun? Viva Day Spa’s Ultimate Sunscreen Guide: Texas Edition has all the answers.



Why is Sunscreen Important?

Sunscreen can prevent both minor skin damage (like sunburn and wrinkles) and, more importantly, major skin damage that can lead to skin cancer. In fact, 1 out of every 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70 according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Not cool. Sun protection helps safeguard your skin from the negative outcomes from hanging in the sun!

Young woman wearing white sunglasses and standing under a green striped beach umbrella.

Who Needs Sunscreen?

Everyone needs sunscreen. Let’s say it louder for the people in the back… ev-ery-one! No matter your age, gender or skin color, sunscreen is a must. Sun damage happens to all of us — every single day.

Do You Need Sunscreen If You Have Darker Skin?

Yes. People with darker shades of skin may not burn as easily as their fair-skinned counterparts, so there is less visible external damage. However, harmful radiation can still penetrate the skin and lead to skin cancer. What’s more, the harmful effects of sun exposure can continue even after you’ve gotten out of the sun. Whatever your Fitzpatrick Skin type (1-6), it is vital to maintain a sunscreen routine tailored to your skin.

When Do You Apply Sunscreen?

Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen every day when you are outside, not just during the summer. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure. Most people (especially women) find it easiest to use a moisturizer that contains SPF, or apply your sunscreen directly after moisturizing in the morning.

But be sure to keep your sunscreen handy. You’ll need to re-apply every two hours when you’re exposed to the Texas sun, and after moisture like sweat or water. Do you need to wear sunscreen when it’s cloudy? Yep. Up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays still make it down to us on overcast days.

Infographic outlining when to share sunscreen that reads apply sunscreen daily, 30 minutes before sun exposure, reapply every 2 hours, and reapply after any sweat or water.

Pro Sunscreen Tip: Cover two fingers with SPF 30+ to adequately cover your face, ears, and neck with sunscreen.

Two fingers with lines of sunscreen, which is enough to adequately cover your face, ears, and neck


How Does Sunscreen Work?

Sunscreen works in two different ways: it either physically blocks the sun or it transforms the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays into non-threatening rays of light or heat. The two main types of sunscreen reflect these options. The first type utilizes minerals like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to physically block the sun’s rays. The second option uses chemicals to turn those harmful UV rays into non-threatening rays of light or heat.

What Are UV Rays?

Backing up even further, the sun emits radiation photons called ultraviolet (UV) light, many of which reach the Earth. When those UV rays hit our skin, it can impact the growth rate of our body’s cells. This can lead to sunburn, skin damage, wrinkles, skin pigmentation (dark spots) and even skin cancer. There are two main kinds of UV rays that affect our skin differently.

UVB vs. UVA Rays, Explained

Ultraviolet B or UVB rays are shorter and can cause superficial damage to the skin’s dermis. This type of sun ray is responsible for that dreaded sunburn and is less likely to show up in the winter.

Ultraviolet A or UVA rays are longer and can actually penetrate deeper through our epidermis to our dermis beneath. UVA radiation is ever present, every day, all year long. UVA is responsible for the damage that causes tanning. It also damages the collagen and elastin on the skin and causes all forms of skin aging, including wrinkles. According to the dermatologists at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, UVA and UVB partner up to cause more serious problems like skin cancer.

What Is SPF?

The SPF number on sunscreen stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin when using the sunscreen compared to unprotected skin. For example, it would take you 50 times longer to burn if you were wearing an SPF 50 than if you were wearing no sunscreen at all.

Need a visual? Our “How Does Sunscreen Work” graphic compares the sun protection from 100 UVB rays when  wearing no sunscreen, SPF 15 sun lotion, and SPF 30 coverage. All 100 of the sun’s photons reach our skin when it is not properly protected. A sunscreen rated SPF 15 offers 93% protection against UVB with only 7 out of 100 photons reaching the epidermis. An SPF 30 sunscreen delivers 97% UVB protection, allowing just 3 protons to reach our epidermis.

Infographic that shows how SPF sunscreen blocks or absorbs damaging UV sun rays. The higher the SPF number, the more sun protection.

Why Broad Spectrum Sunscreen?

Wondering how to protect against those aging UVA rays too? The simple answer is to make sure you use a broad spectrum sunscreen. Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. As a rule of thumb, the UVA protection also increases as the SPF number gets higher for broad spectrum products.

For you technical folks, the rating system for UVA rays is called the “protection of UVA” or PA grading system. It measures how much skin will tan while using a sunscreen product. The higher the PA rating, the better protected your skin will be from the UVA damage that leads to wrinkles, age spots, leathery skin, and skin cancer. More pluses, equal more protection.

  • PA+, some UVA protection
  • PA++, moderate UVA protection
  • PA+++, high UVA protection
  • PA++++, extremely high UVA protection

What’s The Best Broad Spectrum Sunscreen?

Bottle of SkinCeuticals Physcial Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen, a broad spectrum and water resistant face sunscreen with SPF 50At Viva Day Spa + Med Spa in Austin, our most popular spectrum sunscreen is SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. This high performance face sunscreen offers broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection through its weightless application of mineral filters. Key ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide reflect UV rays, while artemia salina (from plankton) boosts your skin’s natural resistance against UV rays and head-related stress.

Physical Fusion UV Defense is ideal for all skin types. Plus, it is paraben free, fragrance free, and non-comedogenic, which means it doesn’t block your pores. This sheer, tinted sunscreen adapts to most skin tones leaving your skin looking luminous.


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What’s The Difference Between Chemical & Mineral Sunscreen?

The difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens is literally in their names. Chemical sunscreens include, well, chemicals that absorb into the skin and turn harmful UV rays into non-damaging wavelengths of light or heat, then release the heat from the skin. Chemical sunscreens are often referred to as absorbers.

Physical (or mineral) sunscreen lays on top of the skin and physically blocks the sun’s UV rays to reflect them. That’s why mineral sunscreens are often called sunblocks.

  • Physical or mineral sunscreens contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which act as a literal shield against the sun’s rays. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are minerals, naturally found in the earth.
  • Chemical sunscreens include organic chemical compounds like avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone which are absorbed by the skin and convert the sun’s UV rays into heat.

Most sunscreens contain a combination of the two ingredients (hybrid) and both types can reduce or prevent damage to the skin.

Infographic that that compares the differences between chemical and mineral sunscreens, and how they protect the skin from the sun's UV rays.

Are Chemical Sunscreens Safe?

Yes, chemical sunscreens are safe. While there is some concern that chemical sunscreen ingredients in chemical sunscreens might have potential hazardous health risks, there is no data that shows any FDA-approved chemical sunscreens are harmful. Just make sure that your sunscreen doesn’t contain benzene, a carcinogen known to be harmful in adults. One of the benefits of  choosing a chemical sunscreen is that they aren’t as sticky as their mineral counterparts. Here’s one of Viva Day Spa’s most popular chemical sunscreens from SkinCeuticals:

SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30, $60

SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen, an SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen for daily use.

New in 2021, this broad-spectrum hydrating sunscreen offers SPF 30 protection, corrects pigmentation, and is safe for daily use. It is proven to reduce visible discoloration by 24%, brighten your skin’s radiance by 24%, and hydrate the skin by 57%.

A lightweight, residue-free formula, it contains 1% tranexamic acid, 2% niacinamide, and 0.3% phenylethyl resorcinol help reduce existing discoloration while broad spectrum chemical UV filters help protect against future sun damage. This daily sunscreen delivers immediate and all-day hydration with 7% glycerin, while mica instantly brightens all skin tones.


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Does Sunscreen Prevent Tanning?

No, sunscreen does not prevent tanning. However, it does limit skin-reddening UVB rays from reaching your skin. The higher the SPF sunscreen number, the fewer of these sunburn causing rays affect your epidermis. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 or higher every day. So, yes, you can get a tan even when wearing an SPF 30 out there.

Does Sunscreen Expire?

Yes, most sunscreens have an expiration date. The FDA recommends that you do not use sunscreen products that have passed their expiration date. It also recommends avoiding sunscreens that have no expiration date or that you purchased more than three years ago. In fact, sunscreen makers are required by the FDA to remain at their original strengths for at least three years. You can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next. But don’t hold onto last season’s sunscreen for too long!

A Sunscreen Buyer’s Guide

The best sunscreen is one that has a high-enough SPF, protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and is water resistant. Here are the basic fundamentals to consider when choosing the best sunscreen:

  • Make sure the SPF is 30 or higher. You might have heard that anything above SPF 30 does not provide much difference in protection. However, a recent study demonstrated that SPF 100+ is more protective against sunburn than SPF 50+. The higher the SPF, the stickier the sunscreen may feel; for some, that inconvenience is a small price to pay for more protective skincare. Keep in mind that the SPF number indicates a higher rate of protection against harmful sun rays, but it does not mean it lasts longer! So be sure to reapply sunscreen at regular intervals — about every two hours for people who are active in the sun or once daily regardless of your sun activity. Those sneaky rays will find you where they can!
  • Check that it protects against UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are what penetrate the skin and cause wrinkles and aging, while UVB rays are what cause the actual sunburn. Make sure the label says broad spectrum or multi-spectrum or clearly indicates UVA/UVB protection.
  • Get one that is water resistant. Especially if you plan to stay cool by splashing around in the pool or if you like to get in a good sweat outdoors. A water resistant sunscreen is also a safe bet if you spend time outdoors regularly and get caught in the rain.

Close-up of a young woman applying dollops of sunscreen to her cheeks.

Which Sunscreen is Best For Your Face?

Searching for the best sunscreen for your face? The skin on our face also tends to be more sensitive than the rest of our body. Sunscreens formulated specifically for the face are typically lighter and are designed to prevent breakouts. Let’s take a look at some good facial sunscreens and sunscreen moisturizers.

Best Sunscreen By Skin Type

Which Sunscreen Is Best For Acne Prone Skin?

The best sunscreen for acne prone skin is a mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These key ingredients let your skin breathe while also protecting from the sun’s harmful rays. Chemical sunscreens don’t cause acne, but they can be more irritating if you are using acne treating products like salycylic acid, retinoids, or benzoyl peroxide. Also, make sure the sunblock you choose is non-comedogenic and oil free.

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50, $42

Bottle of SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense tinted sunscreen, a great mineral sunscreen for oily skinOne of the best mineral sunscreens for the face, Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50 is formulated with acne-friendly Titanium Dioxide, a broad spectrum 100% mineral filter. This ultra-sheer, transparent sunscreen fluid combines 100% mineral filters with artemia salina, a plankton extract to help boost skin’s natural defenses to UV- and heat-induced stress. It offers broad spectrum protection for all skin types. This silky sheer fluid spreads easily and dries quickly, leaving no residue.

  • Leaves a sheer, weightless matte finish
  • 100% mineral broad spectrum sunscreen protection, no chemical filters
  • Helps boost skin’s natural defenses to environmental stress
  • Paraben-free and non-comedogenic


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Which Sunscreen Is Best For Oily Skin?

A powder-based mineral sunscreen is the best option for oily skin. The sunscreen powder can help absorb excess oil without clogging pores, while the natural minerals help protect skin from UV rays.  Here’s one of our top-selling oily skin sunscreens:

Eminence Organic Skin Care Eminence No.3 - Peaches & Cream Sun Defense Minerals, a sunscreen powder that is ideal for oily skin.

Eminence Organics No. 3 Peaches & Cream Sun Defense Minerals, $58

Protect you skin with a sweep of mineral powder that is hypo-allergenic, non-comedogenic, water resistant and offers SPF 30 protection. Just pump the brush three times to release minerals and tap brush once or twice to evenly distribute minerals.  For best results, apply after moisturizer has completely absorbed into the skin. Supermodel Kate Upton doesn’t leave for vacation without it!

  • Vitamin content provides nutrition and antioxidant protection for the skin
  • Complexion appears even, flawless and smooth
  • Long wearing, even coverage
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Pro Tip:
 Eminence Organics offers six shades of mineral powder. Go a shade darker with your powder for a more bronzed, summer look.

Which Sunscreen Is Best For Dry Skin?

The best sunscreen for dry skin contains emollient ingredients that keep your skin moist. Choose a sunscreen with ingredients like shea butter, plant oils, mineral oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, petrolatum, and fatty acids. One of our favorites is:

Tropical Vanilla Day Cream SPF 40, a combo organic moisturizer and sunscreen from Eminence Organic skin care.Eminence Organic Tropical Vanilla Sun Cream SPF 32, $70

A tropical SPF 40 day cream with all mineral protection to revitalize skin and help prevent sunburn. This fabulous formula is clinically proven to increase the skin’s moisture content by 250% in only 7 days. It revitalizes and hydrates with shea butter while soothing vanilla offers a light, sweet fragrance. 

    • Skin is protected from UVA, UVB and UVC rays
    • Epidermis appears moisturized and revitalized
    • Texture appears silky and smooth


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Which Sunscreen Is Best For Sensitive Skin?

The best sunscreen for sensitive skin is paraben-free, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic. Mineral or physical sunscreens tend to work better for people with sensitive skin.

What’s The Best Organic Sunscreen?

Organic or natural sunscreens work without chemicals to provide sun protection and coverage. This means that most organic sunscreens are mineral sunscreens. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the only ingredients approved by the FDA to give your sunscreen a natural SPF.

At Viva Day Spa + Med Spa, we offer a full line of organic sunscreens from Eminence Organic Skin Care. Eminence Organics uses sustainable farming and green practices to create natural, organic and Biodynamic sunscreen and skin care products.

What Is Reef Safe Sunscreen?

Reef safe sunscreens are products that do not contain active ingredients that may harm coral reefs. How? Your sunscreen may wash off and enter waterways when you shower or swim. All Eminence Organic sunscreens are reef-safe. Another top-selling reef safe physical sunscreen is SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50.

Baby lying on a towel in the sunshine looking into the camera, with the ocean in the background.

What Is The Best Baby Sunscreen?

Ideally, parents should avoid exposing babies younger than 6 months to the sun’s rays. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best type of sunscreen for babies and young children is a physical or mineral sunscreen that contains only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These also happen to be the ingredients found in most diaper rash creams!

Since physical sunblocks sit on top of the skin, no chemicals are absorbed into your child’s sensitive epidermis. Be sure to avoid products with the following ingredients that are not recommended:

  • Oxybenzone. Sometimes called benzophenone-3
  • Octinoxate. Also called OMC, methoxy-cinnamate or ethylhexyl methoxy-cinnamate
  • Homosalate

Grey striped cat wearing sunglasses.

Which Sunscreen Is Safe for Cats & Dogs?

Pet lovers need to know! The ASPCA states that pets do not need sunscreen. Unfortunately, pets experience skin cancer. However, sunscreen for cats and dogs isn’t recommended because it is challenging to apply, includes dangerous-for-pets ingredients like zinc oxide and salicylates, and lacks proven effectiveness. Instead, they recommend limiting your pets’ time out in the direct sun, especially for lighter colored animals.

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