Summer is here and this also mean even hotter months aboard our sunny island. While everyone needs a little Vitamin D, it is undeniable that prolonged exposure to the sun would cause sun burn, premature aging or worse, skin damage. One of the easiest and most affordable way to mitigate the effects of the sun would be to simply apply sunscreen – the one product that you should never leave your house without, or rather never miss out the moment you get out of your bed. Yes, sunscreen is required even when staying indoors and no, it is not an option.
Read on to find out all you need to know about sun exposure and why sunscreen should be an essential part of your skincare routine.
UVA VS UVB RAYS
Your skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) when you go under the sun. While shorter UV rays get absorbed by the ozone layer, 2 type namely UVA and UVB rays will still reach your body. For simplification and discussion purpose, let us term ‘A’ as aging and ‘B’ as burning.
UVA rays make up 95% of UV radiation and can penetrate through skin’s epidermis and dermis layer. Due to its ability to reach deep into skin layers, it causes longer term damage and speeds up aging. It is also able to penetrate through glass hence the importance of sunscreen even indoors. UVB rays are usually the strongest between 10AM to 4PM and cause sunburns, together with other more immediate signs of skin damage such as tanning of skin.
Both rays are able to penetrate though clouds hence do not be fooled by a cloudy day. Damage to skin from both is equally bad thus always protect yourself with SPF!
DECIPHERING THE LINGO
There are many lingos on the sunscreen bottle but what do they really mean?
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures the level of protection against UVB rays. The number that follows indicates that it will take X times longer for skin to be reddened or burnt as compared to zero protection. For example, if your skin reddens or burns after just 5 minutes in the sun, using a sunscreen of SPF15 would provide protection against the sun 15 times more, which multiplies to about 45 minutes. In general, we would recommend a sunscreen of at least SPF30 which provides about 97% protection from UVB rays. Of course, regardless of the SPF rating, reapplication is of utmost importance.
PA (Protection Grade of UVA) measures the level of protection against UVA rays. It was originally established in Japan and the ‘+’ indicates the hierarchy of protection available, the more ‘+’ there is, the higher the protection. We would recommend a sunscreen of at least PA+++ to prevent against premature aging.PA+ = Some UVA Protection
PA++ = Moderate UVA Protection
PA+++ = High UVA Protection
PA++++ = Extremely High UVA Protection
You might often see the term ‘Broad Spectrum’ on sunscreen labels as well. This simply means that its formula includes protection against both UVA and UVB rays and would be a good indication for your purchase.
CHEMICAL VS PHYSICAL SUNSCREEN
Chemical sunscreen absorbs UV rays and convert them to heat, which is then released by the skin. As the sunscreen only takes effect once absorbed, a waiting time of 20-30 minutes is usually required. It is generally lighter and non-sticky in texture hence easier to layer on products after. The active ingredients can penetrate deep into skin as well, thus usually not recommended for sensitive skin types.
Physical sunscreen forms a physical barrier that sits on top of skin’s surface, blocking and reflecting UV rays before it reaches the skin’s surface. As it sits on the surface, the effect is immediate hence no waiting time is required, however this also mean it is more prone to be washed off with water or perspiration. The texture tends to be thicker which may cause a white cast when applied.
Chemical or Physical, one is not better than another. As with other skincare products, it is important to find one that is suitable for your skin type, needs and lifestyle. If you have sensitive skin and would like to avoid potential reaction, physical will be the way to go. If you are one who does not like to plan or love to do water sports, chemical might be a better option.
Regardless of the sunscreen you choose, even with a high SPF rating, it will not work if you do not apply it properly.
- Apply sunscreen at least 15-20 minutes before you leave the house, especially so for chemical sunscreens! Some sunscreens take time to absorb thus always plan early.
- Apply at least the size of a 50-cent coin for your face and neck. More is always welcome but nothing less! Do not forget the back of the ears and neck which are areas that are prone to burns.
- Do not forget your lips! For those who are active and always exposed under the sun, apply a lip balm of SPF30 or higher to prevent burns and blisters on your lips.
- Reapplication of at least every 2 hours is a must, especially so if you are constantly under direct sun exposure. We are all guilty of applying sunscreen only once a day. The fact is sunscreen does wear off after a couple of hours and beyond it, your skin is simply exposed to UV rays.
- Added protection is always appreciated. Sunscreen alone will not be able to mitigate the effects of UV rays fully, but you can further reduce it by wearing a wide brim hat, sunglasses with UV protection or simply cover up more with clothing.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to sunscreen. The only wrong would be to not apply sunscreen at all. Remember, any protection is always better than none!