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Sunscreens can prevent sunburn, reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, and help prevent early signs of skin aging. If you use sunscreen every day, it is the most important thing you can do to prevent skin aging. Sunscreen not only prevents sunburns but can help treat acne too! For years dermatologists have been preaching about the importance of using a daily moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher. Yet here’s what very few people know: You might be getting burned no matter how high your SPF number is if you’re not using the products properly. Not all sunscreens are created equal. There are differences in their formulation and the way they work that make some more effective than others. You should be looking for few things in sunscreen so that you can choose the best product for your skin-care regimen!
How do sunscreens work?
Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun’s ultraviolet rays. That means you need to look for a product that contains combinations of ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide in addition to another UVA-blocking component such as octinoxate. SPF 30+, broad-spectrum, and water-resistant are three important factors when considering sunscreen.
Sunscreen vs. Sunblock: What is the difference?
While some people interchange these terms in casual conversation, they have very different meanings. Sunscreens allow in some ultraviolet radiation to prevent burning and contain chemicals that absorb into the skin. The term “sunblock” is generally used for products containing ingredients that physically block the sun’s rays. However, not all sunblock’s are created equal-you should look for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as they offer effective UVA and UVB protection.
Sometimes people refer to sunscreens as lotions, but this is far too generic of a term because sunscreen comes in many formulations (sprays, sticks, gels). If you can’t find an exact sunscreen, I recommend finding one that contains at least one physical blocker (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) among its ingredients.
What type of sunscreen should I use?
Here are my recommendations based on skin types:
Oily or acne-prone skin: Look for oil-free products containing either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. If you break out when sunscreen gets in your pores, try layering a moisturizer with SPF over the sunscreen or use a mineral powder product on top of your sunscreen when outside.
Combination skin: Look for water-resistant products containing either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. When using these two ingredients in combination, one is less likely to cause pore-clogging than other chemical sunscreens, which have shown similar results in animal studies.
Dry skin: Sunscreens containing oil may help prevent windburn by preventing water evaporation from the skin surface. These are also gentle enough for facial applications and can even be used around the eye area. Since they are hard to find, solid sticks are an effective alternative if you’re looking for water-resistant formulations.
Sensitive skin: Sunscreens that contain physical blockers are generally hypoallergenic and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction or clog pores. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide should be the top ingredients on the label since they are natural mineral blockers, although their activity can depend on how they are formulated.
What should you look for in a good sunscreen?
Physical sunscreens are mineral ingredients that sit on top of the skin to block the sun’s rays. Many people prefer physical blockers because they are naturally derived, gentle on most skin types, and better tolerate acne-prone or sensitive skin. When sunscreen is first applied, it may look white on the skin but will quickly blend in as it absorbs into the outer layer of skin.
Chemical sunscreens absorb into the lower layers of the epidermis, where they convert UV rays into heat which is then dissipated from your body. Chemical sunscreens are available in many formulations, including gels, lotions, creams, sprays, powders, etc., making them more versatile and easier to apply. Because they are absorbed into the epidermis, chemicals tend to be more pore-clogging than physical blockers and take longer to blend into the skin.
If you have particularly sensitive or acne-prone skin, certain chemical sunscreens may irritate. Try looking for a product containing a combination of minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These mineral combinations often offer broader UV protection without many of the side effects associated with chemical ingredients. However, even though animal studies have shown these products to be effective blockers of UVA rays, research is limited about how these ingredients work against UVA. There hasn’t been as much human testing as for other active ingredients. In recent years, more studies have been done which show that these ingredients protect against UV rays.
What should be the ingredients in sunscreen?
Physical Sunscreen Blockers
Zinc Oxide: One of the safest and most gentle mineral blockers available, zinc oxide is a natural ingredient in many baby products. Zinc oxide sits on top of the skin to prevent UVA and UVB from reaching your skin cells. The only downside with this popular sunscreen ingredient is its limited shade range. To provide broad-spectrum protection, some brands add tiny nanoparticles of zinc oxide into their formulations. Though there has been some concern about how safe these particles may be, several studies have shown minimal toxicity when tested on animals.
Titanium Dioxide: Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral that provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB coverage without the white coloration of zinc oxide. It works differently from zinc by converting UV rays into heat rather than sitting on the skin to deflect them. This process makes titanium dioxide less effective at blocking out UVA and more likely to cause sunburns if not used in proper amounts. However, because it’s unlikely to clog pores and stays on the surface of the skin, this ingredient offers gentler protection for acne-prone or sensitive skin types.
Physical/Chemical Sunscreen Blockers
Combination products containing both physical blockers such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and chemical blockers are becoming increasingly popular as they offer broader coverage and can be reversed to maintain a clear appearance.
What is the evidence that sunscreens protect against skin cancer?
The FDA requires all sunscreens to go through rigorous testing before being approved for use in the U.S. Many sunscreen ingredients have been documented in clinical studies as protecting mice from developing skin tumours caused by UV exposure, specifically UVA rays. However, since different species react differently to UV radiation (humans are more sensitive than mice), it’s difficult to say whether these results will apply similarly in people.
Does all sun protection need to be reapplied every two hours?
Most dermatologists recommend applying your sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, then reapplying at least every 2 hours. The FDA guidelines define a sunscreen as effective for 2 hours after application, but that doesn’t mean reapplying isn’t still needed. Even if you don’t initially burn or tan, the cumulative effect of sun exposure results in persistent damage to your skin cells over time, leading to wrinkles and other signs of aging later on.
Dermatologists widely believe that sunscreen daily from childhood onwards is the best way to prevent long-term skin damage from UV rays. Some dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen at all times when going outside since research shows daily use helps protect against free radicals even when no UV exposure occurs. This form of indirect protection works by absorbing harmful conditions of oxygen caused by environmental factors such as pollution and smoking, which have been found to cause cancer.
What does PA++++ stand for?
PA stands for Protection Grade of UVA. It was introduced in Japan and is a designation given by the Japanese Cosmetic Industry Association (JCIA) based on measured levels of UVA protection. There are 4 different grades, PA+, PA++, PA+++ and PA++++.
The number beside the letter indicates the level of protection:
PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening) this method measures how quickly a sunscreen will darken your skin when exposed to UV rays; this test involves determining how many times you need to apply sunscreen each day to achieve adequate protection against UV rays. The time it takes for skin discoloration to occur in the presence of sunscreen is measured, and this PPD value indicates how many times you would need to reapply in a day. For example, someone with very fair skin may have a PPD score of 8, while someone with darker skin may have a PPD score 15 or above.
What does broad spectrum mean?
“Broad-spectrum,” as defined by the FDA, means that a sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The FDA suggests an SPF rating minimum of 15 for using during moderate to heavy outdoor sun exposure but doesn’t specify what percentage should be devoted to protecting against either type of ray. Both types are harmful individually, but their combined effects are believed to be even more dangerous, so it’s essential to protect yourself against both.
For example, in the winter months, when the intensity of UV rays is relatively low, it may be more important to use a sunscreen that protects primarily against UVA rays since they are stronger during this time. It’s also possible for chemicals to provide broad-spectrum protection but not necessarily high SPF protection; this is referred to as having “UVA/UVB protection” rather than “broad spectrum.” (Broad-spectrum indicates protection from both types of radiation while “UVA/UVB” only suggests partial coverage.)
Chemical sunscreens can achieve broad-spectrum status if their active ingredients contain molecules capable of scattering and absorbing UVA and UVB rays. However, they must pass further FDA testing before being given the designation of “broad spectrum.” In contrast, physical sunscreens have been shown to provide 100% coverage of both UVA and UVB rays from the moment they are manufactured, so no special testing is required.
The FDA website states that a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating greater than 50 will provide twice as much protection against the harmful effects of the sun compared to an SPF 50 product.
In how much quantity sunscreen should be used?
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a golf ball-sized amount for your total body to determine how much sunscreen to apply. This may seem like a lot, but only half the amount is needed if you use it over wet skin. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside since it takes this long for the cream to bind with the skin thoroughly and offer protection from UVA and UVB rays.
As for how thickly you should apply sunscreen, dermatologists recommend using approximately one-half teaspoon for each arm, leg, body front, body back, and face (including neck). However, this amount may vary depending on your body size, so it’s essential to use the appropriate amount for your physique. The AAD also suggests reapplying every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
Applying sunscreen should be part of your daily routine; however, skin doctors recommend wearing it year-round rather than just during warm weather since even winter UV rays can damage the skin.
Benefits of using sunscreen
- Prevent skin cancer
- Prevent hyperpigmentation (discoloration due to the darkening of pigment in the skin)
- Prevent aging
- Prevent sunburns
- Promote wound healing by improving blood circulation and protecting against free radical damage when protected from sunlight
- Sunscreen helps acne patients because it protects against UV rays that worsen acne conditions by increasing inflammation in the body when exposed to sunlight, especially during summer months/sunshine hours
- Decrease side effects when you are on medication such as psoriasis drugs that cause photosensitivity which worsens if exposed to ultraviolet light.
If you find difficulties finding the best sunscreen for your skin, don’t hesitate to consult with a skin doctor. Sunscreen helps to prevent premature aging, wrinkles, age spots, and even skin cancer. Your skin doctor can recommend the most beneficial sunscreen for your skin and help you understand which ingredients to look for and how much protection is needed. Your skin doctor will recommend the best lotion for your skin type, whether regular, oily, sensitive, or dry. You can book an appointment through OHO Homeopathy to find the best skin doctor in your area.