As the temperature rises and summer arrives full-fledged, everyone is trying to stay protected from the scorching heat. You may prefer staying indoors during summer or you may be the one already planning a summer trip, but one thing is a must-have, be it indoors or outdoors, sunny or cloudy and that is sunscreen. Sun exposure can be harmful, it damages your skin beyond repair and causes visible signs of ageing like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. It may also be responsible for causing skin cancer. It is important to use sunscreen year-round and not just during summer. Let us delve deeper into this topic.
What is SPF?
SPF is the Sun Protection Factor, a measure of the level of protection offered to the skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin and can contribute to skin cancer.
If your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes of sun exposure, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer). This is a rough estimate that depends on skin type, time of day, the intensity of sunlight and the amount of sunscreen used.
Facts about sunscreen
Understanding the truth about sunscreen can help people use sunscreen correctly. Here are a few facts for you to know:
1. Sunscreen is always necessary, even on cloudy days, during winters, when the sun does not feel as strong as usual.
2. People of all skin types and complexions need sunscreen. Everyone is at risk of sunburn and skin damage and taking precautions is necessary.
3. You may still get a tan while wearing sunscreen because sunscreen will protect the skin from harmful rays. It is still possible to get a tan as it is the body’s natural protective response to UV exposure, more specifically its a function of UV A rays
4. Sunscreen will not last all day after just one application. In reality, sunscreen breaks down in the light and loses its effectiveness over a short period of time and must be re-applied every 2 to 4 hours, at least.
5. The higher does not mean the better. Sunscreens with really high SPFs do not offer significantly greater protection than SPF 30. For example, SPF 30 filters out 96.7% of UV rays, while SPF 60 filters 98.3% of UV rays. So despite doubling SPF, UV protection is only increased marginally.
6. Sunscreens are not 100% waterproof.
7. Everyone needs sunscreen, including toddlers. Especially active kids who go to school and play outdoors. There are kids-specific sunscreens with unique ingredients for their delicate skin.
8. All sunscreens are not the same. There are a variety of ingredients in sunscreens that provide protection against different levels of sun exposure. Active ingredients such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, ecamsule etc are often used to filter out UVA and UVB rays. There are also chemical blockers, such as avobenzone.
9. Higher the SPF, the greater the greasiness of the product. So, it’s better to use low SPF sunscreen with repeated application.
Which sunscreen should I choose?
It is recommended to use a sunscreen that’s labelled “broad-spectrum,” because this means it protects against both UVA and UVB and infrared rays. UVA rays cause premature ageing of your skin, wrinkles and age spots, while UVB rays cause sunburn. Infrared rays accelerate ageing and travels deeper in the skin than UVA & UVB rays, which causes free radical damage. Overexposure to UV B can lead to skin cancer. Dermatologists suggest using an SPF of at least 30, which will block about 97 percent of UVB rays. And that must be applied every 2-3 hours.
An individual must apply enough sunscreen to any exposed area of skin every day. Choosing the right sunscreen is important and the first step to doing it is knowing your skin type. Before buying any skincare product, it is important to know your skin type. If you have acne-prone, oily skin, make sure to use a ‘non-comedogenic’ or read the label “for acne–prone skin” sunscreen which will not block the skin pores. If you have dry skin, look for sunscreens that contain hydrating ingredients and have moisturising properties.
For sensitive skin, mineral sunscreen or physical sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide is ideal. Chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, is formulated with ingredients like avobenzone and oxybenzone that absorb UV rays to keep them from penetrating your skin and may cause skin irritation.
How much to apply
With the rule of nines, the body’s surface area is divided into 11 areas, each representing roughly 9% of the total. Sunscreen can be applied to each of these areas at a dose of 2 mg/cm2 if two strips of sunscreen are squeezed out onto both the index and middle fingers from the palmar crease to the fingertips. Users in fact are unlikely to be willing to cover themselves or their families with such a copious layer of sunscreen and would prefer to apply half this amount. A less daunting proposition is therefore to apply one finger of sunscreen, with the corollary that the resultant protection would be only about half that stated on the product. Users should be encouraged to reapply one finger’s worth within half an hour of the initial application in order to achieve optimal protection.
When to apply
- Apply sunscreen as the last layer of your skincare regime in the morning.
- Or after a bath or washing your face in the morning.
- Step out in the sun after 20 minutes of applying sunscreen.
- Reapply every 2-3 hours ideally.
- Use a water-resistant sunscreen if you are going swimming & reapply it every 30 minutes if you are planning to stay in the water for longer than an hour.
- Reapply sunscreen if you sweat a lot.
- Always wear sunscreen round the year and in all seasons.
Using sunscreen is essential, it reduces the negative side effects of harmful UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. Adults of all ages and skin colours should use at least an SPF of 30 during all indoor and outdoor activities. You should also wear protective clothing and shades to protect yourself from the sun. Sunscreens come in different forms including creams, lotions, gels, sprays, sticks and powder. It is ultimately your choice and what you find comfortable to use. Remember that the key is to apply sunscreen liberally and evenly. Make sure to take enough time to review the label of sunscreen before purchasing and applying the product. Never use sunscreen after it has expired. Avoid buying the ones that contain ingredients your skin may be sensitive to. Always reapply sunscreens when you are outdoors for a prolonged time.