Summer is in full swing and so is the use of sunscreen. Nowadays sunscreen is marketed as a skin protectant, but also a beauty product. Each brand of sunscreen offers the best tan, ultimate sheen and as a skin supplement that does more than just protect you against ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). With so many slogans, and scientific terms being bantered about we wanted to break down the basics of sunscreen.
The first thing you have to understand before picking the right sunscreen is UV rays are invisible to the naked eye and are classified by wavelength. There are three types of UV rays – UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA rays have the longest wavelength, followed by UVB and UVC.
UV rays are generally absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer, the ones that reach your skin are mostly in the form of UVA and UVB. UVB rays cause sunburn and skin inflammation, whereas UVA rays penetrate deeper layers of the skin and cause cellular harm. To protect yourself from this, sunscreen has been made with ingredients that filter UV rays.
Importance of Wearing Sunscreen
Over the years, the sun has an intense effect on the skin. It can cause premature skin aging, skin cancer, and many other skin changes. If you are not yet convinced that wearing sunscreen is important, reading through the below list should persuade you.
Reduces cancer risks
Daily use of sunscreen decreases the risk of developing Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen and limiting your sun exposure are some of the ways to protect yourself.
Wearing sunscreen can keep you away from precancerous skin changes like actinic keratoses which are red, scaly lesions on the face and ears.
Makes you stay young
The number one cause of premature aging is UV exposure. UV exposure can also change your skin texture and may cause coarse wrinkles, thinning of the skin, easy bruising, and skin tearing. By wearing sunscreen, the development of these conditions can be slowed down.
Even skin tone
Sunscreen prevents skin discoloration. Brown spots or solar lentigos, and freckles are the most noticeable sun-induced pigment change. UV exposure can also lead to small white spots on the arms and legs.
Wearing sunscreen is important for all color and skin types. Sunburn can harm the skin momentarily, but sun damage permanently affects your skin.
Types of Sunscreen
As previously mentioned, sunscreen is made to create UV filters that keep harmful rays from penetrating the skin. There are two types of sunscreen in general, and each of which uses a different mechanism in protecting your skin from sun damage.
Mineral sunscreens are applied on the skin’s surface and act as a physical filter against UVA and UVB rays. Like a mirror, it deflects and scatters UV rays away from the skin.
The effectiveness of mineral sunscreens is immediate – they work as soon as they are applied. You may apply mineral sunscreens liberally to ensure adequate protection. Once done, it will be visible on the skin and may leave a white cast. Since it sits on the surface of the skin, it can be easily rinsed off and rubbed, which makes frequent reapplication necessary.
The nanoparticles in mineral sunscreens must not be inhaled, hence, spray and powder formulations of such should be avoided. The ingredients in mineral sunscreens include titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide.
Unlike mineral sunscreens, chemical sunscreens are absorbed into your skin and sit in deeper layers. They absorb UV rays, change them into heat, and then release them from the skin.
The UV rays must penetrate the skin to reach these chemicals first, which may still cause damages to deeper layers of the skin. It also takes about 20 minutes after application to be effective. After the application, this type of sunscreen will not be visible to the naked eye. If you are sunbathing, reapplication is a must since the direct light will cause the chemicals to be used up quickly, but if you are not exposed to direct sunlight, reapplication may not be needed.
Chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, octisalate, homosalate, or combination of these. Since this sunscreen is chemically induced and penetrates the skin, it is not recommended for people with sensitive skin, acne-prone skin, and for those with hyperpigmentation.
The Right Sunscreen For You
To make the best choice of sunscreen for your skin, you need to consider the following factors.
Mineral sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been studied for clinical safety and effectiveness. There are a lot of stores that offer this type of sunscreen as well. If you are opting for a chemical sunscreen – avoid oxybenzone – as there are concerns about its potential effects to hormone levels and there are allergic reactions that are being linked to it.
How to Apply
Sunscreens can be applied through spray, powder, or lotions. The safest way to apply sunscreen is by applying lotions. By choosing lotions, you are keeping yourself away from inhaling harmful chemicals.
It is recommended to apply sunscreen to your entire body before dressing up. In this way, the skin will be protected even if your clothing shifts or if you remove layers. This will also prevent yourself from getting uneven skin tone. Make sure to apply sunscreen to every part of the body that is exposed to the sun as some people miss the tops of their ears, back of their necks, feet, and behind the knees.
If you have sensitive skin or skin conditions like acne and hyperpigmentation, mineral sunscreen is the sunscreen for you. If you do not have skin conditions and are planning to swim, chemical sunscreen may be used as it does not need frequent reapplication.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This number tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to damage your skin if you apply the sunscreen exactly as directed compared with the amount of time without the sunscreen. Hence, if you use an SPF45 product properly, it would take you 45 times longer to burn than if you do not use sunscreen.
If sunscreens are not applied correctly, SPF can lead to incorrect assumptions about safety. Hence, it is still recommended that you use sunscreens properly than just relying on high SPF product rating.
Regardless of the SPF, you need to apply a solid layer of mineral sunscreen for optimal coverage. If you are using a chemical sunscreen, wait at least 20 minutes before exposing yourself under the sun. This should be done daily, even on a cloudy day. Up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays reach the earth, it is important to apply sunscreen and be protected than doing nothing at all.
No matter what type of sunscreen you use, you need to reapply at least every two hours, especially when you are swimming or sweating, or just under direct sun exposure.
Use Sunscreen Daily
To conclude, wearing sunscreen is essential and should be done on a regular basis to prevent UV rays from harming your skin. Some of the sun damages that can be prevented by using sunscreen are skin cancer, skin discoloration, and other skin conditions.
Mineral and chemical sunscreens are the two main types of sunscreens. They are manufactured differently but are both made to protect the skin. Mineral sunscreens provide full protection from UVA and UVB rays, are effective as soon as applied, and do not clog pores; but may need frequent reapplication and leave a white lotion like cast on the skin. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens can be applied thinly on the skin, and are invisible to the naked eye when applied; but they do allow some UVA exposure, require some time to be effective, and are not suitable for sensitive skin.
Considering the right sunscreen for your skin type would need a lot of thought. You need to consider the product ingredient, application process, usage, and SPF. Ultimately no matter what you choose, one choice remains – choose to be protected, use sunscreen.