Sunscreen is essential to any skincare routine, helping protect our skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, with the many available options, choosing the right sunscreen can take time and effort. Factors such as SPF, UVA, UVB protection, ingredients, and application methods all play a role in determining the effectiveness and suitability of a sunscreen.
Here, we will explore the key things you should know before buying sunscreens to ensure proper protection and skincare.
Why is Sunscreen Important?
Before delving into the specifics, it’s crucial to understand why sunscreen is vital to skin care. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays can lead to sunburn, premature ageing, dark spots, and an increased risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen acts as a barrier, absorbing and reflecting these harmful rays to minimise their impact on the skin. Incorporating sunscreen into your daily routine can help maintain healthy and youthful-looking skin while reducing the risk of sun-related damage.
5 Things to Know Before Buying Sunscreen
Look for Broad-Spectrum Protection
When choosing a sunscreen, prioritise those that offer broad-spectrum protection. This means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, causing long-term damage and premature ageing. Look for sunscreens labelled “broad-spectrum” or explicitly mentioning protection against UVA and UVB rays. This ensures comprehensive protection against both types of damaging rays.
Check the SPF Rating
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates a sunscreen’s protection against UVB rays. SPF determines how long it would take for your skin to burn when exposed to the sun compared to when unprotected. While there is a common misconception that higher SPF offers significantly better protection, and the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50 is less significant than one might think. SPF 30 filters out about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 filters about 98%. A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is generally recommended for everyday use.
Consider Your Skin Type
Different sunscreens are formulated to suit various skin types, so it’s essential to consider your specific needs. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, opt for oil-free or non-comedogenic formulas that won’t clog pores. Dry skin can benefit from moisturising sunscreens with hydrating ingredients. Sensitive skin may require sunscreens with minimal fragrance or those specifically labelled for sensitive skin. Determining your skin type and selecting a sunscreen can enhance comfort and prevent adverse reactions.
Look for Water-Resistant Formulas
If you plan on swimming, exercising, or sweating, choosing a water-resistant sunscreen is crucial. Water-resistant sunscreens provide better adherence to the skin, ensuring prolonged protection even when exposed to water or sweat. However, it’s essential to note that being water-resistant does not mean waterproof, and reapplication is still necessary after swimming or heavy sweating.
Check the Ingredients
Examining the ingredients list is crucial in ensuring the suitability of sunscreen for your skin. Look for sunscreens that contain effective active ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX. These ingredients provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, be wary of potential irritants or allergens. If you have sensitive skin, avoid sunscreens with fragrances, preservatives, or alcohol. Opting for mineral-based or physical sunscreens can be a gentler option for sensitive skin types.
How to Apply Sunscreen Properly?
Applying sunscreen correctly is as important as choosing the right product. Follow these guidelines for proper application:
- Use an Ample Amount
Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to ensure adequate coverage. Use about a teaspoon of sunscreen for the face, and for the body, use enough to cover all exposed areas.
- Apply Regularly
Sunscreen effectiveness diminishes over time, so reapply every two hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Even with water-resistant sunscreens, reapplication is necessary after water activities.
- Don’t Forget Overlooked Areas
Apply sunscreen to commonly forgotten areas such as the ears, back of the neck, hands, and feet.
- Combine with Other Sun Protection Measures
Sunscreen should be part of a comprehensive sun protection routine. Pair it with other protective measures like seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the right sunscreen products requires careful consideration of factors such as broad-spectrum protection, SPF rating, skin type, water resistance, ingredients, application methods, and expiration dates. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you can make informed decisions and select a sunscreen that suits your needs. Remember to apply sunscreen properly, reapply as needed, and combine it with other sun protection measures for optimal skin health and protection against the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.