I know this post is up right after summer’s just finishing, but still sunscreens being everyday essential to our skincare I thought I’ll make a detailed post about them. If you followed me on my instagram platform, I recently re-shared few posts about sunscreens and different types of them, and I have been getting a lot of responses, queries and suggestions as well. Sunscreens being a really hypothetical topic, let’s break down few of the known/unknown things about sunscreens. And with a lot of questions like – What’s difference between physical and chemical sunscreen? How do you know which one is the best kind to use? Which sunscreen is least likely to cause breakouts or irritate sensitive skin? Which one will give your skin the most protection? let’s jump into the topic…
WHAT IS SUNSCREEN? WHAT IS SPF?
Sunscreen is a cream or lotion combining several ingredients that help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. The two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB, damage the skin, age it prematurely, and increase your risk of skin cancer. UVA, which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, has long been known to play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging). UVB, the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn, tends to damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photoaging.
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to skin cancer.
Traditional sunscreen products have been more successful at blocking UVB rays than UVA rays.
The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) scale and the UVB protection percentage :
SPF 30 sunscreen only gives you 4% more protection than SPF 15 sunscreen. Sunscreens with really high SPFs, such as SPF 75 or SPF 100, do not offer significantly greater protection than SPF 30 and mislead people into thinking they have more protection than they actually do. Or, another way of looking at it is :
- SPF 15 (93% protection) allows 7 out of 100 photons through
- SPF 30 (97% protection) allows 3 out of 100 photons through.
WHAT IS PA? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM BROAD SPECTRUM?
While SPF is a measurement of protection and as to how long you can stay outside during the day and be protected from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays; this is where the PA+ rating system comes into play. PA stands for ‘Protection Grade of UVA’ and explicitly measures the UVA protection a sunscreen provides. The rating is designated by a ‘+’ symbol and most used in Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, the PA system simplifies and groups the ratings from a PPD test.
Broad Spectrum, on other hand also stands for Protection Grade of UVA. But this one protects against both UVA and UVB rays and qualifies as broad spectrum, and most U.S. and Canada countries use this label on their sunscreens. So, if your sunscreen is labelled as ‘broad spectrum’, then your sunscreen protects you from both the harmful UVA and UVB rays giving you double sun protection.
TYPES OF SUNSCREENS :
SO, since we’ve known the little things about these factors on the common sunscreen labels, lemme also tell you that there are technically two types of sunscreens available in today’s aesthetic markets. And these two types are the Physical sunscreens and the Chemical sunscreens. So what are these now?
Physical sunscreens, also known as the ‘Mineral sunscreens’, contain inorganic physical UV filters that create a barrier on the skin that filter out UV rays before they penetrate into the skin. Physical sunscreens are sometimes called SUN BLOCKERS. They use mineral-based ingredients, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, to block UV rays. Physical sunscreens work by staying on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UV rays away from the skin.
Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand contains organic carbon-based active ingredients designed to absorb UV radiations upon contact. These type of chemical sunscreens actually penetrate deep into the epidermis and dermis layer of the skin and hence called SUN FILTERS.
HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN A PHYSICAL(MINERAL) vs CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN?
By checking the ingredients!
Look for Physical sunscreens formulated with Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide. They form an effective physical barrier on the skin immediately after application. And they tend to be more friendly to those with sensitive skin.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients usually end with -ate, -ene or -one such as Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Octinoxate, Avobenzene or Oxybenzone, create a chemical reaction and works by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. Avobenzene-3% is actually considered good for the skin, and anything more than 3% is definitely hazardous.
Read more about PHYSICAL SUNSCREENS vs CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS.
HOW DO I CHOOSE MY SUNSCREEN?
Here are some simple points based on which you can pick the best sunscreen for your skin,
- Choose a cream or a lotion based sunscreen, always. Spray and powder forms of sunscreens tend to penetrate deep into skin layers and can be hazardous.
- Look for a ‘Broad Spectrum’ label, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Either or look for the PA factor. The higher the +’s, the higher the protection against UVA rays.
- Look for sunscreens with SPF of 30 or higher. But best recommended is SPF 30. Higher SPF doesn’t mean high in protection, rather it hardly has that slight difference in sun blocking factor. Do not fall for such false promises, and stick to a normal SPF 30 sunscreen.
- Look out for skin-friendly ingredients like the Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. These are most suitable to sensitive skin as well.
- Water-resistant! Technically there are no waterproof or sweatproof sunscreens, after FDA has banned the usage of these terms on sunscreens. A sunscreen should only be water-resistant and the brand has to mention the amount of time they’ll hold up when exposed to water.
HOW TO APPLY A SUNSCREEN?
An average adult requires about an ounce of sunscreen to cover the exposed skin. If it’s a Chemical sunscreen, make sure you wanna start your routine with a sunscreen making it sink deep into the skin and protecting. And if it’s Physical sunscreen, make sure that’s the last thing you apply before stepping out in the sun, coz you want to create a skin shield to protect against the UV rays.
Thank you so much if you’ve made it till the end of the post. I hope this post was helpful, at least to few of them. And hope you be regular on your sunscreen game!