Sunscreen 101: How to Choose & What to Avoid
Summer is upon us and with it comes every excuse to go outside and soak up the sun’s warm rays. But with exposure to Ultra Violet (UV) rays comes risk of sunburn, wrinkles, early ageing and possibly cancer. So how do you enjoy your time outdoors while keeping your skin protected, supple and radiant? Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right sunscreen.
What to Consider When Choosing Sunscreen
1. SPF and PA Ratings
Sunscreen is not a one type fits all skin care product.
Different skin types require varying Sun Protection Factor (SPF) products; SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97% while SPF 50 blocks about 98%.
Very fair skin complexions will require sunscreen with higher SPF ratings than needed by darker skin complexions, and those exposed to the sun for long periods will require sunscreen with higher SPF ratings than those who are only exposed for short periods.
Additionally, you can check out your sunscreen’s Protection Grade of UVA (PA) rating. Sunscreens with a higher number of “+’s” (e.g. PA ++++) provide enhanced protection against UVA rays. However, not all countries follow the PA rating system. If you do not find this rating on your bottle, ensure that the sunscreen offers Broad Spectrum Protection which shows that it effectively protects against UVA and UVB rays.
2. Water Resistance
If you plan on exerting yourself (walking, playing sports, swimming), make sure you use a water resistant sunscreen. Water resistant sunscreen remains effective when exposed to water and sweat, but still needs to be reapplied regularly.
3. Skin Sensitivity
If you have allergy-prone skin, use oil, preservative and fragrance free sunscreens. In addition, ensure that the sunscreen does not contain oxybenzone or para-aminobenzoic (PABA), as these may exacerbate skin conditions and cause outbreaks. Opt for water-based sunscreens and physical sunscreens- these reflect rather than absorb UV rays.
People with oily skin are also advised to choose oil-free sunscreens, while those with dry skin are advised to select moisturizing cream or gel products.
When choosing sunscreen for your child, ensure that it does not contain PABA, oxybenzone, dioxybenzone and sulisobenzone. Also look for sunscreens with an SPF of 15+.
What to Avoid When Choosing Sunscreen
1. Harmful Ingredients
Avoid sunscreens with benzophenones such as oxybenzone as they may trigger allergic reactions in children and adults with sensitive skin. Instead, look for sunscreens which contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, as they do not irritate the skin.
2. Spray and Powder Sunscreens
While spray and powder sunscreens provide added convenience during application, they contain harmful nanoparticles which may be absorbed into your bloodstream through acts such as inhaling.
Sunscreen is a crucial skin care product with immense protection power against harmful UV rays. However, for optimum protection, sunscreen needs to be supplemented with protective clothing, hats and sunglasses, as well as the conscious decision to stay in the shade whenever possible. Have an amazing summer!