In recent years, people are appreciating more and more about the importance of taking care of their skin and protecting their skin from the possibly harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays ejected from the sun. We all know how the sun can damage our skin, especially in the summer months when the sunlight is at the highest temperature. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the principal reason for skin cancer, to prevent sunburn and damage, the best way to protect your skin from sun exposure is to wear sunscreen not only in summer but a year-round preventive health measure. In addition to sunscreen protection from skin cancer, it protects as well against photoaging, sagging skin and wrinkles. With so many choices in the market, how can you pick a sunscreen that is right for you? We’ve all likely heard of the term SPF before, but what does that actually mean? In this blog we will first see the different types of sunscreens to then explain the difference between sunscreen and SPF. What does SPF mean and what level of SPF do we need? Who should use sunscreen ? What to look for when choosing a sunscreen? When and where should we apply sunscreen and how much should we use? Finally, what are the benefits of sunscreen, why do we have to use it?
Sunscreens: Chemical vs. Physical
Some people might confuse sunscreen with SPF, employing them as almost replaceable terms. Although, you can’t really have one without the other, there is a difference between the two.
Sunscreen is a tangible lotion you apply to your skin, it contains active ingredients that avoid the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation to your skin.
There are two types of sunscreens: chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens, the difference between them in short is:
● Physical sunscreens: contain mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to block the UV rays before penetrating the skin.
● Chemical sunscreens: while, on the other hand, chemical sunscreens have ingredients that absorb the rays UV such as avobenzone and octisalate.
Are sunscreens safe? Both sunscreens have been tested safe and effective. Many sun protection products today contain both types of ingredients.
What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The carefully measured number that is given to a sunscreen formula is to describe how long the sun's UVB rays would take to turn your skin red when you apply the sunscreen. The sunscreen is the formula you are using, whereas the SPF is the quantifiable degree of protection that the sunscreen formula offers to your skin. If you use an SPF 30, it needs 30 times longer for your skin to burn than if you used no sunscreen. Sunscreens are made in a different range of SPF, the SPF value tells the level of sunburn protection given by the sunscreen product. All sunscreens are tested to measure the UV radiation measure exposure to cause sunburn when using a sunscreen compared to the time it takes when not using a sunscreen. Then the sunscreen product is labeled with the accurate SPF value. Higher SPF values ( up to 50) give better sunburn protection. Broad-Spectrum SPF protects against both UVB and UVA protection levels. UVB rays cause burning of the skin, while UVA causes photoaging such as wrinkles, loss of collagen and promotes the formation of brown spots on the skin.
What level of SPF do we need?
When picking a sunscreen, search for the label "broad spectrum SPF" value which will indicate protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. For your best protection, choose a sunscreen or cosmetic product with at least an SPF of 15 or higher if you spend a lot of time outdoors. If your skin is fair, you could need a higher SPF of 30 to 50. The sun is stronger during the middle of the day which means your risk of sunburn is higher, compared to early morning and early evening hours.
Who should use sunscreen?
Everyone should use sunscreen every day. Men, women and children over 6 months of age. Including people who tan, remember that your skin is affected by sun exposure through your lifetime, whether or not you burn. Babies under the age of 6 months have highly sensitive skin, and should stay out of the sun. Also there are people who should also take extra care in the sun and never forget to use sunscreen to protect their skin:
● People with pale, white, or light brown skin.
● People with freckles or red hair.
● People who tend to burn rather than tan
● People who have many moles
● People who have skin problems relating to a medical condition
● People who live in a country where the sun is very intense
● People who have a family history of skin cancer
● People who spend a lot of time in the sun.
What type of sunscreen should you use?
There are various types of sunscreen products you can choose, depending on your skin type and your exposure to the sun;
● Water-resistant sunscreen gives you good protection for water activities.
● Spray sunscreen, although experts recommend a cream-based sunscreen first.
● Broad-spectrum sunscreen is the perfect protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
● All-natural sunscreen will give you protection but not as well as sunscreens with chemical ingredients.
● Low vs. high SPF, it is always better to choose a high SPF for better protection. There isn’t any more protection after SPF 50, but there’s a chance that a bottle that says 50 is actually less SPF. When in doubt, go with the 50.
When, where and how much should I apply sunscreen ?
Experts and dermatologists recommend applying sunscreen every day, to your entire body before you get dressed, 30 minutes before going outside to allow the sunscreen to bond to your skin. Applying sunscreen to your entire body will protect every part of your body that can be exposed to the sun including the missing spots like (the tops of your ears, back of the neck). Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, no matter the SPF, sunscreen should always be reapplied. Sunscreen lasts an average of two hours which means you should schedule to reapply every two hours. In particular, if you sweat a lot, feel your skin burning, or spend time in the water, you’ll have to reapply more often. In addition to applying sunscreen every two hours, the recommended amount of SPF is measured based on the application of two milligrams of sunscreen for each square centimeter of the skin surface.
Why is sunscreen a Must? What are the benefits?
Apart from protecting you from sunburn, sunscreens also perform many essential benefits to maintain your overall health and appearance of your skin:
● Shields From Harmful UV Rays: While sun rays are the source of vitamin D necessary to the body, over-exposure without sunscreen lotions can put you at a health risk. Using a sunscreen lotion can block the harmful UV rays damage that can also cause skin syndromes.
● Sunscreen helps prevent skin cancers: UV radiation is the major risk factor provoking skin cancers. Regular adequate protection from the sun’s UV rays helps lower your risk, this is why it’s essential to apply sunscreen daily.
● Sunscreen avoids premature aging: the aging process is divided into two categories: genetically or chronic exposure to the sun's radiation. UV radiation provokes the premature breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles. As well as damaging pigment-producing cells. The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is responsible for visible signs of aging. Regular use of sunscreen grants you to enjoy smooth, youthful-looking skin for years longer.
● Sunscreen reduces the risk of hyperpigmentation: A common skin condition caused by sun exposure, due to transformations in the productivity of melanin, that gives skin its color.
● Sunscreen prevents inflammation of the skin: UV radiation damages the DNA of immune-protecting cells, leading to inflammation and extreme damage to the skin and the body. Immune suppression reduces our body’s capacity for these cells to save us from skin cancers and other illnesses. The immune system performs a fundamental part in keeping the health of all the tissues of the body, so healthy skin is necessary for general health.
● Sunscreen prevents sun sensitivity: Sunscreens are helpful in avoiding solar irritation to people with sun-sensitive conditions, where exposure to UV rays can lead to redness and burning in the skin.
As much as we enjoy a daily dose of vitamin D from the sunshine, we need to protect our skin against potential harmful effects therefore a healthy skincare routine requires SPF. The benefits of sunscreen aren’t dedicated only to the summer. It’s essentially all year round for total protection against skin damage. Too much sun exposure can cause skin damage, as well as fine lines, wrinkles, and sunspots. It’s important to safeguard your skin with SPF, because of the intensity of its ultraviolet rays. Luckily, SPF has adjusted as a key element as more and more people become educated of the relation between sun protection and anti-aging. Among its many benefits, sunscreen works to protect your skin and keep its moisture and smoothness. It is a protection against skin cancer and early aging. Starting with a healthy routine and never leaving home without SPF sunscreen coverage to your face during the day will keep your skin healthy and protected.