What is Sunscreen?
Sunscreen is used to shield the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. They aid in the prevention of sunburn and accelerated aging (such as wrinkles, leathery skin). Sunscreens also reduce the risk of skin cancer and sunburn-like skin reactions (sun sensitivity) caused by certain medications (including tetracyclines, sulfa drugs, phenothiazines such as chlorpromazine). Sunscreen active ingredients either absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, preventing it from reaching more profound layers of the skin, or reflect the radiation. Wearing sunscreen does not allow you to stay out in the sun for an extended time. Sunscreens cannot shield you from all of the sun’s rays.
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Protection
A Broad Spectrum or Full Spectrum sunscreen shields your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. UVA and UVB light are the two types of ultraviolet (UV) light.
- UVA rays penetrate the skin’s dermis, prematurely aging it and causing wrinkles and brown age spots.
- UVB rays can cause skin burns, and their intensity varies depending on the season, location, and time of day.
Excessive exposure to UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer.
What is Sun Protection Factor (SPF)?
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of a sunscreen is a measurement of how well it absorbs or blocks the sun’s rays and, therefore, the amount of time you can spend in the sun.
For example, an SPF of 15 allows you to stay out in the sun 15 times longer than you could without it so, if your skin begins to redden in 20 minutes without sun protection, applying an SPF 15 product increases that time by a factor of 15, allowing you to stay in the sun for 300 minutes.
Furthermore, a higher SPF blocks out more rays — a product with an SPF of 15 will filter out approximately 93 percent of the sun’s rays, while an SPF of 30 will filter out roughly 97 percent.
What’s the Difference Between Chemical and Physical Sunscreen?
Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds, such as oxybenzone or octinoxate, that convert UV rays into heat and release it through the skin. Chemical sunscreens have grown in popularity because they are easier to apply and come in various formulations tailored to different skin types.
Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients that deflect UV rays away from the skin, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. The white zinc oxide on the lifeguard’s nose is a classic physical sunscreen. Those were the days! Physical sunscreens are becoming more aesthetically pleasing. They are ideal for young children because they do not irritate the eyes. They are also effective on sensitive skin and as a post-procedure treatment after chemical peels or laser treatments.
What’s Best for You?
Waterproof sunscreens, tinted sunscreens, moisturizing sunscreens, and even powdered sunscreens are available. Sunscreens of various types can be used at different times of the day and depending on the activity.
- A moisturizing broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be used daily.
- Tinted sunscreen can be used as a substitute for foundation or in conjunction with facial powder.
- Powdered sunscreen can be used all day and is ideal for quick reapplications.
- For outdoor activities, water-resistant sunscreen is a better option. While swimming or sweating, the SPF of water-resistant sunscreens can be maintained for up to 80 minutes.
Best Way to Apply Sunscreen
When incorporating sunscreen into your daily routine, remember to apply a generous amount at least 15 minutes before going outside and to reapply that significant amount 2 hours later, after swimming or heavy sweating.
Use sunscreen on infants younger than six months only if directed by a doctor. When outdoors, infants should stay out of the sun and wear protective clothing (e.g., hats, long sleeves/pants).
Seek immediate medical attention if you get a severe sunburn or suspect you have a severe medical problem.