Many people assume that skincare routines are just marketing strategies of the beauty industry. You may not think much about your skin right now, but exposing it—without any protection—to the harmful rays of the sun will catch up with you eventually.
How do you combat it? Wear sunscreen.
Who Is It For?
Everyone! Men, women, and children over the age of six months are urged to wear sunscreen regularly. If used as recommended through the age of 18, there would be a 72% decrease in the likelihood of acquiring skin cancer later in life.
For infants under six months, it is best to use protective clothing or limit their sun exposure altogether. But if you must, you can apply minimal sunscreen with SPF 15 to the exposed body areas of an infant, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Which Sunscreen Is the Best?
Physical or chemical? Spray or lotion? Water-resistant or moisturizing? Choosing the right kind of sunscreen is getting harder with new rules and products coming out of the market every year. In any case, here are the four things that should be at the forefront of your mind when selecting a sunscreen:
The sun emits two kinds of harmful rays: UVA and UVB rays. Sunlight produces 95% UVA rays that can penetrate deep into our skin, destroying its firmness and elasticity, as well as gradually burning our skin without us noticing. While UVB rays only account for 10% of the sun’s emission, it is the primary cause of skin aging, wrinkles, and sunburn. Both rays are dangerous, causing premature aging and ultimately skin cancer.
Sunscreens labeled as “broad-spectrum” protect you from both UVA and UVB and can typically be found in your local market.
Sun Protection Factor
A product’s SPF number tells you how well it will shield you from the burning UVB and UVA rays of the sun, ranging from SPF 8 to SPF 100+.
According to the FDA, SPFs lower than 15 only protect you from sunburns. The ideal SPF should be at least 30, for it protects against 97% of UV rays. However, an average SPF 15 to 30 is already enough for everyday use. The key is to apply it every 120 minutes to exposed body parts or as frequently as the product label specifically instructs.
The best sunscreen ingredients are those that do not cause irritation or allergic reactions and can withstand sunlight radiation without breaking down and forming harmful chemicals. Common sunscreen active ingredients are categorized into the following:
- Physical or mineral sunscreens protect us by making a barrier that will deflect the UV rays once they hit the skin. It can contain either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
- Chemical sunscreens act like sponges by absorbing the dangerous UV rays instead of reflecting them. It can contain a combination of two or more of the following chemicals: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, octisalate, homosalate, and octinoxate. Chemical formulations blend well with the skin, but they are prone to causing irritation for individuals with sensitive skin.
All FDA-approved products are relatively safe to use. However, the NIH warned that sunscreens containing Vitamin A (even as low as 25%) should be avoided as its reaction with sunlight can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Lotion, Cream, Spray, Gel, or Stick?
The kind of sunblock you use is a matter of preference and may vary based on the area you will apply it to. For example, creams are best for dry skin and facial use, while gels are better for areas with more hair such as the legs and chest. Sprays are good for children as they are easier to apply.
Sunscreens also come in water-resistant formulations for activities such as swimming and exercise. Note that they are only water-resistant and NOT waterproof. Some sunblock wears off after 40 minutes while others stay on for up to 80 minutes. Check the label of every product you use and apply it accordingly.
Safety and Precautions
Everybody is advised to wear sunscreen, but there are certain considerations for people with skin conditions such as photosensitivity, dry skin, acne-prone, and highly sensitive skin. Protection requirements are different for people living with such health conditions. It is better to get the help of a patient care navigator for seeking the right medical resources, assistance, and healthcare.
None of us are safe from the dangers of the sun. Regardless of skin tone, everyone is subject to skin-related diseases such as melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Since skin is our first line of defense, we owe it to ourselves to follow skincare routines that will keep us safe, healthy, and protected.