Sunscreen is a skincare essential that is not only meant to be applied during hot summer days but year-round. We've all been told to wear sunscreen every day, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and skin type. However, what many of us don’t know is the skin benefits sunscreen offers. If you’re new to the realm of sunscreen or don’t know why it’s essential to wear sunscreen daily, stay tuned to learn all about it and why you need to apply and reapply it religiously!
What is Sunscreen?
Sunscreen can come in many forms, including gel, cream, stick, or spray. It’s formulated with various active ingredients that prevent skin damage due to the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The two types of ultraviolet rays deemed commonly responsible for skin damage, are UVA and UVB. These rays can even pave the ground for certain types of skin cancers. There are several different sunscreens with varying abilities to shield against UVA and UVB rays.
Importance of Sunscreen for Your Face
Regular exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can take a toll on the health and appearance of our skin. The damaging UV rays can lead to wrinkles, melasma, fine lines, sunspots, and even skin cancer. Oxidative stress caused by UV rays damages the skin’s natural lipid barrier and the underlying connective tissue. This negative impact compromises the skin’s protective ability, making it more prone to damage due to external pollutants. Sun damage happens over time, and the full extent of the damage may not be apparent immediately. UVA and UVB rays result in different types of skin damage. Immediate sunburn can happen after UVB damage, while UVA rays lead to long-term damage such as fine lines and wrinkles. It’s essential to do as much as you can to protect the skin from this damage. Applying sunscreen repeatedly throughout the day is the best thing to do.
Types of Sunscreens to Choose From
Making the right choice for your skin can be challenging with an endless collection of sunscreen products available on the market. Sunscreens differ on their level of protection, consistency, ingredients, stability, safety, and skin reaction. Here are two types of sunscreens to choose from and how they differ:
- Physical Sunscreen - Also referred to as mineral sunscreen, uses mineral-based ingredients; titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to guard the skin from UV rays. These ingredients act as physical filters and sit on the skin's outer surface, forming a protective film that reflects UV rays. Physical sunscreen effectively deflects heat and energy from UVA and UVB rays. The texture of physical sunscreen is thick and heavy, making it a bit difficult to blend on the skin and may leave a white cast. You can go out in the sun right after applying the sunscreen without waiting for it to start working. Unlike chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreens tend to have a longer shelf life.
- Chemical Sunscreen - Chemical sunscreen is often comprised of ingredients such as avobenzone, homosalate, oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, and octocrylene. Most products are formulated with some combination of these ingredients rather than just one. Unlike physical sunscreen, chemical sunscreen absorbs the sun’s UV rays and converts them into heat, eventually releasing the heat from the skin. These filters soak up both UVA and UVB rays like a sponge. Chemical sunscreen needs time to seep into the skin after application for it to work, so it’s best to wait around 20 minutes before heading out. Chemical sunscreen has a lighter consistency, making it easier to spread and blend on the skin. On the negative side, due to the use of multiple chemicals, fragrances, and preservatives, chemical sunscreens can be aggravating to those with sensitive and irritable skin.
Benefits of Sunscreen for the Skin
Other than protecting your skin from sunburn, here are some of the most notable ways wearing sunscreen regularly helps to keep your skin healthy:
- Prevents Premature Aging of the Skin: The main culprit behind the early onset of pesky signs of aging, including wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots, is sun damage. UV rays cause the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin, which leads to premature sagging and wrinkling of the skin.¹ So by slathering sunscreen you are preventing and delaying these unwanted signs of aging in the long run.
- Minimizes the Risk of Hyperpigmentation: UV rays affect the pigment-forming cells, called melanocytes in the skin, resulting in the overproduction of melanin in the skin. This leads to the appearance of dark spots or hyperpigmentation on the face and other parts of the body. Sunscreen acts as a protective barrier against this harmful effect of UV rays.
- Prevents and Reduces Inflammation: Another reason you should incorporate sunscreen into your skincare routine is its ability to prevent UV damage to skin cells, which can lead to skin inflammation and tissue damage. Sunscreen protects the immune system from deteriorating, maintaining the overall health of the skin and the body.
- Prevents Skin Cancer: Besides damaging the way your skin looks, sun damage is a prominent cause of skin cancer. Francesca Fuso, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, stresses that “just wearing sunscreen will decrease the risk of developing skin cancer”.²
- Prevents Sun Sensitivity: If you’re struggling with health problems, like rosacea and lupus, that make your skin sensitive to sunlight, you might be familiar with the toll UV rays can take on your skin. Sun exposure can make your condition worse and lead to burning, irritation, and redness. To try and avoid this discomfort and pain, it’s best to protect the skin from the sun.
What SPF Is Better For Your Skin?
One of the key factors to consider while choosing your sunscreen is determining the right Sun Protection Factor, also known as SPF. The higher the SPF, the higher the protection from UV rays. Skincare professionals and dermatologists recommend sunscreen products with SPF 30 or more to keep the skin sufficiently shielded against the sun rays. For example, an SPF of 15 can filter only 93% of the UVB rays, effectively preventing sunburn but not reducing the risk of premature aging or skin cancer. On the other hand, an SPF of 30 is potent enough to filter 97% UVB rays and prevent these skin issues.³ Similarly, sunscreens with SPF above 30 will provide more protection. So it’s important to see what you want out of a sunscreen when choosing the right one for you.
Another important step toward picking an effective sunscreen is choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen. A broad-spectrum sunscreen product is formulated to stand against both UVA and UVB rays. Furthermore, go for a water-resistant formula that works even when you’re swimming or sweating on a hot day.
Why You Need to Reapply Your Sunscreen?
It’s common for most of us to make the mistake of applying sunscreen only in the morning and thinking that it’s enough to protect our skin from the sun throughout the day. The fact is that you need to apply your sunscreen every 2 hours to keep your skin amply protected against UV damage. Also, remember that even a sunscreen with a high-level SPF lasts the same duration of time as a low-level SPF, so don’t expect additional protection time with higher SPF products and reapply your sunscreen no matter what.
How Much Sunscreen is Needed?
Many people only use a small amount of sunscreen, which usually isn’t enough to fight the damaging effects of UV rays. It’s crucial to apply enough sunscreen to your face and other areas that clothing will not cover. Generally, 1 ounce of sunscreen will be enough to fully cover your face, legs, neck, and arms. Also, you should always remember to apply a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher to protect your lips from cell damage. Remember, sunscreen should be the last step in your skincare routine. We like applying sunscreen over Sundree’s RYSE+SHYNE hydrating facial serum. This lightweight serum sinks beautifully into the skin, leaving it hydrated and ready for the next step in our skincare routine.
Sun protection is a necessity, and it’s recommended to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF level of 30 or higher to prevent the harmful effects of the sun. As mentioned, sunscreens can be found in many forms, such as lotions, sprays, sticks, and gels, so choose something that best suits your skin type. Also, you can pick from physical and chemical-based sunscreens, depending on your preference. Consistent use of sunscreen can prevent a number of skin problems, like premature signs of aging, inflammation, sun sensitivity, and skin cancers, so keep reapplying your sunscreen to maintain protection.
- Jennings, Kerri-Ann. (2020). ‘Collagen-What Is It and What Is It Good For?’, Healthline. Accessed August 19, 2021. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen
- Farah, Alexis. (2015). ’10 Essential Facts About Sunscreen’, Everydayhealth, Accessed August 19, 2021. Available at: https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/essential-facts-about-sunscreen/
- Simon, Stacy. (2018). ‘Choose the Right Sunscreen’, ACS. Accessed August 20, 2021. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/choose-the-right-sunscreen.html