It’s Halloween almost and the weather has cooled but it’s still time to wear sunscreen.
Sunscreen. It’s important. Even if you’re not in the sun all day. Cue the protests: But I’m rarely outside, you may think. I carry a hat, you may point out. My face oil has enough antioxidants to protect me from the sun anyway. Back up on that last one. Can that be true?
There’s a rumor that’s been floating around—a skin care hack, if you will—that face oils are nutrient-dense enough to protect your skin from sun damage. I’ve heard it from several friends, and even an organic aesthetician. But I was skeptical. So before jumping aboard the antioxidant-as-sunscreen train, I wanted to fact-check this with doctors. And I’m glad I did, because the simple answer is no. It’s not a legit sunscreen swap. “Antioxidants are great at preventing and repairing some UV damage, but primary prevention with a daily broad spectrum sunscreen is really the key,” says New York City dermatologist Elizabeth Hale, M.D.
But wait, where did this confusion even come from? To understand why the two aren’t interchangeable, you’ve got to go back to the basics: science. According to New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., antioxidants are a protective mechanisms for plants, which also happen to work wonders on our skin. “They minimize free-radical damage, stimulate collagen production, and soothe inflammation,” he says. Sunscreens, on the other hand, are different and come in two forms. “Physical blockers block the skin from sunlight, reflecting and scattering UV rays off the skin, while chemical blockers filter and absorb UV radiation,” says New York City dermatologist Shereene Idriss, M.D.