Yay! It’s summer time! That means sun, beach, and spending time in the great outdoors. Spending time in the sun lifts our spirits. But the same sun that boosts our mood is also the culprit behind sun spot, ageing, and worse yet skin cancer.
Even if many people link a tan with health and vitality, it’s more the opposite. The consensus among dermatologists is that there is no such thing as a safe tan.
A tan is our skin’s visible reaction to sun damage. So it’s key to be armed with the right information so that you can enjoy the sun safely all year round without the risk of skin damage.
First things first, let’s cover the basics!
How does sunscreen work?
Sunscreen stops the sun’s rays from entering and damaging your skin. It does so by blocking, scattering, reflecting, and absorbing the UV rays with physical and chemical particles.
When you hear chemical and physical sunscreens, this means that the chemical sunscreens contain chemical ingredients that react with the radiation before it can enter your skin, absorbing the UV rays and releasing the energy as heat.
Physical sunscreens contain physical particles such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays from the skin. And of course, there is also sunscreen containing a combination of chemical and physical particles.
Both types of sunscreens have their pros and cons. In general, physical sunscreens don’t tend to irritate, sting, or allergic reactions. But they can leave a white cast and be greasy. While chemical sunscreens are easier to apply and usually clear, they can lead to allergic reactions or irritations.
The sun contains UVA and UVB. Both UV lights can affect your skin after exposure. UVA has a longer wavelength that enters the thickest layer of the skin, the dermis leading to more permanent damage. In other words, unprotected exposure to UVA leads to skin ageing, sun spots, and even a suppressed immune system. It can cause genetic damage to cells.
UVB light has a shorter wavelength. UVB is what causes sunburns and superficial damage to the epidermis, the outer layer of your skin. But, with each sunburn, the chances of you developing skin cancer increase.
There is less UVB in winter, mornings, and evenings. But, UVA is always present no matter the time of day or season, and can even reach you through windows. As UVA can penetrate deeper into the skin, it makes the effects of UVB even worse.
That is the reason why you need a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA and UVB light. And also why you always need sunscreen no matter the weather, season, if you’re driving or indoors.
What is SPF?
When shopping for sunscreen, you’ll see SPF on the packaging. SPF is the abbreviation for Sun Protection Factor. It shows how well and for how long your sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB. But as you need a broad spectrum sunscreen, you’ll also need to check the PA ratings.
PA rating is to measure the level of protection from UVA rays. It was developed in Japan and means “Protection Grade of UVA Rays”. The PA rating on sunscreens is
PA+ – some UVA protection
PA++ – moderate UVA protection
PA+++ – high UVA protection
PA++++ – extremely high UVA protection
If you don’t see a PA rating on your sunscreen bottle, check if you find zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are approved by the FDA to block UVA rays.
Let’s start with the myths, shall we?
The higher the SPF, the longer you’re protected
First of all, no sunscreen blocks 100% of the UV rays. SPF only measures how long the sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB that is from sunburns.
Then, if you don’t apply enough sunscreen (for example, you need 1 table for your face and about 30 g for your body), the protection might be lower. You also need to re-apply every 2 hours.
Sunscreen in makeup and moisturisers are enough
Nowadays, many beauty products have SPF added. But unless cosmetics are labelled with an SPF of 30 or higher, you should apply a layer of sunscreen under your makeup. Chances are, you don’t wear enough makeup to really protect your skin. Think of how you’d look with such a thick layer of foundation – just saying…
Regardless of the type of sunscreen, you need to apply it every 2 hours for it to work properly.
Sunscreens make you break out
Not all sunscreens are created equal. Of course, there are some that can be heavy and feel greasy, but there are also many others that are non-comedogenic that is won’t clog the pores. There’s a wide range of sunscreen types for every skin care issue. If your skin is oily or you’re prone to break out, look for a lightweight, oil-free SPF that isn’t going to clog your pores.
Wearing sunscreen will make you vitamin D deficient
Although it’s correct that our bodies produce vitamin D and need sunlight to do it. But, we only get about 20% of vitamin D like this. The other 80% comes from our diet or vitamin supplements. It’s similar to saying you could get your vitamin C from a cigarette. Most people would rather drink a glass of orange juice than start smoking.
When UV levels are 3 or higher, most people can get enough vitamin D with just a few minutes of sun exposure while completing everyday tasks. These can be walking to the car or the bus stop.
Wearing SPF is enough, you don’t need to cover up
Wearing sunscreen can be tempting to think that your skin is fully protected against UV radiation. Many people think that a layer of sunscreen allows them to stay out all day, even during peak UV times.
Fact is, if you cover up your skin, the clothing provides much better protection than sunscreen and the sun. Particularly if you wear UV filtering clothing (not sheer or lightweight garments), the sun shouldn’t penetrate through to your skin at all.
UV rays, more precisely, UVA contribute to premature ageing. UVA reaches into the dermis where it damage collagen fibres. Other signs of photo ageing are freckles, sun spots, and texture changes.
This means, wearing sunscreen every day without fail can do more than prevent skin cancer, it can also prevent signs of photo ageing. Especially if you’re putting in all the hard work with vitamin C, retinol, and exfoliation, you’re literally undoing it all by not wearing sunscreen.
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