We all know that Sun is very harsh for us (talking about India) and that our summers are not at all pleasant. Though sunscreens should be used the entire year but during summers it becomes extremely important to protect our skin from burning away! So today, I thought of sharing some important facts related to sun protection and reasons why it is so important. Starting right from the beginning:
1. Why is sun protection important?
UV radiation can cause more harm than we can actually anticipate. Few effects to name are hyperpigmentation, sunburn, premature aging of the skin, damage to the eyes, suppression of immune system and skin cancer. So, tanning should be our least concern!
2. Types of radiations
There are 3 types of UV rays:
UV-A: (relatively long wavelength) It accounts for approximately 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. It can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and is responsible for the immediate tanning effect. Furthermore, it also contributes to skin ageing and wrinkling as it can penetrate deep into the skin. It also may enhance the development of skin cancers
UV-B: (medium wavelength) It is very biologically active* but cannot penetrate beyond the superficial skin layers. It is responsible for delayed tanning and burning; in addition to these short-term effects it enhances skin ageing and significantly promotes the development of skin cancer. Good news: Most solar UVB is filtered by the atmosphere. We just have to protect our skin from the radiation that reaches earth’s surface.
UV-C: (Short-wavelength) It is the most damaging type of UV radiation. However, it is completely filtered by the atmosphere and does not reach the earth’s surface. (Sigh of relief)
3. Protection factors:
- SPF (Sun protection Factor): It indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen as compared to how long skin would take to redden without the product. For example, someone using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will take approx. 15-20 times longer to redden than without the sunscreen.
- SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93% of the sun’s UVB rays
- SPF 30 protects against 97%
- SPF 50 screens 98%
- PA: This is a Protection grade for UVA rays. This is a Japanese measurement ranking which is now widely used. It is based on the Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) reaction reading at 2-4 hours of sun exposure.
- PA+ means the sunscreen can provide UVA protection with PPD between 2 and 4. It can provide the protection of medium UV radiation.
- PA++ means the sunscreen can provide moderate protection against UVA rays with a factor of PPD between 4 and 8. It is ideal for normal skin individual exposed to medium UV radiation.
- PA+++ is designed for normal skin that exposes to very strong UV radiation. It provides good UVA protection with a factor of PPD of more than 8. It is the highest grade of UVA protection currently available.
4. Types of sunscreens
Now, that we know types of radiation, let’s look for options to protect our skin from these. And here comes the sunscreen. When used with proper ingredients and application, we can eliminate all the harmful effects caused by UV rays.
Sunscreens can be classified into 2 types: Physical & Chemical.
Physical sunscreens (sun-blocks) are particles that reflect sun’s rays away from skin. Both of them offer protection against UVA and UVB rays. (these days physical sunscreens are formulated with a much better improved texture which causes minimal whitecast and the ability to sit well under makeup too).
Pros of physical sunscreens:
- Naturally broad spectrum-protection from both UVA & UVB rays
- Lasts longer when physical activities are not involved
- Non irritating to skin
- Doesn’t heat up the skin, hence suitable for people with heat activated skin
- Mostly doesn’t clog pores as it doesn’t get absorbed into the skin
- Longer shelf life
Cons of physical sunscreens:
- Not water/sweat proof, hence frequent application is required
- Leaves whitish cast on skin
- Formula can be thicker
- Generous amount needs to be applied else Uv rays won’t be blocked entirely
Chemical sunscreens (organic-absorbers) form a thin layer on top of skin and absorb UV rays before they reach the skin. Then they convert UV rays into non-damaging wavelengths of heat and dissipate.
Pros of chemical sunscreens:
- Excellent formula, perfect for daily wear & makeup
- Generous application is not required
- Formula is easier to add additional treatment ingredients, such as peptides and enzymes, which offer other skin benefits
Cons of chemical sunscreens:
- Due to a higher internal skin temperature these can possibly cause an increase in existing brown spots and discoloration
- Need to be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure inorder to get absorbed easily and start functioning
- As these get absorbed into the skin, chances of irritation are more
- Multiple chemicals need to be combined inorder to get broad-spectrum protection, which can irritate the skin more
- Certain formulas can clog pores as well
5. Natural ingredients which have sun protection properties
You can also look for these ingredients in addition to those mentioned above:
Raspberry, Strawberry, Propolis, Shea butter, Walnut, Caffeine, Wheatgerm oil, Sunflower oil & Carrot oil
6. Sunscreen ingredients to stay away from
Though approved by FDA, many chemical ingredients can be potentially harmful in the long run. They tend to get absorbed deep into our body, to an extent that their traces can even be found in a mother’s milk.
Also, avoid the ingredient retinyl palmitate as it contains retinol which is photosensitive. You wouldn’t want to irritate your skin more. Keep retinols strictly for nights!
And needless to mention, avoid parabens. No explaination is needed here.
Irrespective of physical or chemical, sunscreens should be reapplied every 90 minutes, if staying outdoors. For weekdays where most of us would be sitting the entire day in AC packed cabins, a reapplication after 3-4 hours should do the job.
8. Few brands that I have tried
I have oily, acne prone and highly sensitive skin. I know this is a deadly combination. Because of this, I have stayed away from sunscreens for a very long time. A big mistake, I know. (read my blog such mistakes here). But now a sunscreen is a crucial step in my skincare.
Going by the texture wise, I had been liking The Lotus matte gel for the longest time but recently ditched it as it contains chemical sunscreen ingredients as well as parabens.
I’ve been liking Blossom Kochar Aroma Magic aloevera sunscreen gel, made up of all natural ingredients, paraben free and has a gel texture. Also, recently trying my hands on Suncross matte finish sunprotect gel. It has Zinc oxide and doesn’t leave a visible white cast on skin. Can’t comment much because I’ve used only twice. Let me know if you want a detailed review on it.
So, this super long post comes to an end here. I had to do an intensive homework to gather all facts, that too from reliable sources If you wish to read more and in depth, I’ve mentioned all of the sources below. Hope, I’ve covered all queries related to sun protection. You can now pick your sunscreen wisely after having a brief knowledge about the ingredients.
If you have any sunscreen recommendation/or a fact which I missed above, do share it in the comments below. Also, it is me who has prepared the diagrams.
Until next time, stay beautiful & keep smiling!
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