How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

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One of the most crucial steps of your skincare routine is putting on sunscreen before you go outside to prevent premature aging and damage to your skin. But how do you choose the right sunscreen? 

Firstly, you should understand what SPF means; having higher SPF doesn’t always mean giving more sun protection. SPF stand for Sun Protection Factor which is a relative measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet (UV) B rays. UVB is what cause the skin to go red when you stay out in the sun for too long. UVB damages the epidermis, skin’s outer layers, where the most common (and least dangerous) forms of skin cancer occur. Those cancers are linked to sun-accumulation over the years. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is thought to be caused by brief, intense exposures, such as a blistering sunburn.

One of the most crucial steps of your skincare routine is putting on sunscreen before you go outside to prevent premature aging and damage to your skin. But how do you choose the right sunscreen? 

Firstly, you should understand what SPF means; having higher SPF doesn’t always mean giving more sun protection. SPF stand for Sun Protection Factor which is a relative measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet (UV) B rays. UVB is what cause the skin to go red when you stay out in the sun for too long. UVB damages the epidermis, skin’s outer layers, where the most common (and least dangerous) forms of skin cancer occur. Those cancers are linked to sun-accumulation over the years. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is thought to be caused by brief, intense exposures, such as a blistering sunburn.

It would be best if you also understood that no sunscreen protects 100% of UVB, a sunscreen with SPF of 2 give you a 50% protection, SPF of 10 give you a 90% protection, SPF of 15 give 93% protection, SPF of 30 give you a 97% protection, and an SPF of 50 give you a 98% protection from UVB. So there you see that by increasing the SPF from 30 to 50, you only get a 1% increase in protection and in the real would, that 1% doesn’t make much of a difference. 

Therefore, you should use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, and there’s no point of using a sunscreen with SPF higher than 30.

Secondly, you should understand that SPF doesn’t say anything about UVA protection. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin’s dermal layer, damaging collagen and elastic tissue. That layer is also where the cells that stimulate skin darkening are found; that’s why UVA rays are considered the dominant tanning rays. (UVA rays are also used in tanning beds.) Though many people still think a tan looks healthy, it’s actually a sign of DNA damage—the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further injury, which can lead to the cell mutations that trigger skin cancer.

Therefore, when choosing a sunscreen, you must make sure that the sunscreen is a broad spectrum so that you are protected from both UVA and UVB. There’re two main types of sunscreen: physical and chemical sunscreen.

Physical (mineral) sunscreen are nanoparticles that stay on top of your skin, and its active ingredient is zinc dioxide and/or titanium dioxide. This type of sunscreen is suitable for people with sensitive skin or people with skin problems such as dermatitis, eczema, and rosacea. Physical sunscreen offers better UVA protection but usually are more expensive.

Chemical sunscreen is absorbed into the skin when applied. It absorbs UV rays when entering your skin and dissipates as heat. Most generic brand sunscreen on the market are chemical sunscreen. The active ingredients for this type of sunscreen are a combination of oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. Chemical sunscreen is usually suitable for all skin types.

For me personally, I prefer the physical sunscreen as it provides better protection. I find that the La Roche-Posay Anthelios line offers a good value for money. They provide both physical and chemical sunscreen. For physical type, I like Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen; for chemical type, the Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid Extreme is also a good choice.

When applying sunscreen, most people do not apply enough sunscreen to get the required protection from the UV rays. Make sure that you use at least half a teaspoon amount of sunscreen on your face and neck for the needed protection. Also, if you are going to stay out in the sun all day, you need to make sure that you apply the sunscreen at least twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Also, keep in mind that no sunscreen will give you 100% protection from UV rays, so its best to stay out of the sun, use a hat or an umbrella to avoid wrinkles, premature aging, or sun damage to your skin.

One Response

  1. Thanks for helping me choose the right sunscreen. I’m currently looking for a good lotion that can protect my skin, especially in the morning when I commute to work. With that said, I shall then follow your advice to make sure that the sunscreen I’m going to purchase is a broad spectrum in order to get my skin protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Since I found this cancer council lotion online, I guess I might have to research its properties first before buying.

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