With April coming to an end, the summers are already at a full swing. But with the appeal of beach and vacations, comes the uninvited sunshine. While some people might think of the sun as a blessing and a means to get naturally tanned, others search for ways to protect themselves from it. A skin-friendly sunscreen is the first prophylactic treatment that comes to mind when protection from the sun is needed. Sunscreens are widely available across the globe; some are getting manufactured by cosmetic brands such as L’Oreal, while others are being sold by drug store companies.
The question is – which sunscreen is the best for you?
Sunscreens are normally classified according to their Sun Protection Factor number, or simply the SPF number. In definitive terms, the SPF number is a quantitative measure of how well the ointment will defend the skin from the ultra-violet rays from the sun. Normally, SPF numbers come in multiples of five – SPF 15, SPF 30, and SPF 45. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of the Ultra-violet Rays, SPF-30 blocks around 96%. The percentage increases non-linearly with the SPF number but never reaches up to 100%, so theoretically there is no sunscreen that can offer a hundred-percent protection from the sun.
One would assume that the choice to buy the best sunscreen is simple: just get the one with the highest SPF value. However, there are other factors that need to be considered when making this choice.
One very important factor that many people tend to ignore is the way the sunscreen is applied. Even if you use one with an SPF value of 60, and do not apply it properly, you might end up benefiting from a small percentage of the original SPF value. Application of about two tablespoons of the sunscreen is recommended with continuous reapplication every two hours to gain the maximum benefit from your product.
BROAD SPECTRUM SUNSCREENS
We already know that the damaging agents in the sun are, in fact, the ultra-violet rays. These rays are further divided into UVA and UVB rays. Most drugstore and cheaper cosmetic brands are narrow-spectrum sunscreen that protect against UVB rays only. Although UVB rays play the pivotal role in sunburns and melanin hyper-pigmentation, there is evidence of UVA rays causing skin cancers.
So, it is essential to use a sunscreen that offers protection against not only UVB but UVA as well. Broad-spectrum or full-spectrum sunblocks are what you need to be looking for. To confirm a product is broad spectrum, here are some ingredients you need to be looking for on the label of your sunscreen:
- Mexoryl SX/Ecamsule
- Titanium Dioxide
If you find these on the sunscreen of your choice, you’re on the right way.
WHAT SUITS YOUR SKIN TYPE?
When deciding what sunblock to buy for yourself, you need to consider your skin tone and type. In general, children benefit more from inorganic sunscreens that contain titanium oxide instead of those that have PABA as one of its ingredients. For adults, the decision comes down mainly to the skin complexion.
- If you have a very fair complexion and get sunburnt easily, a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher is recommended.
- If you have moderately fair skin and get sunburnt occasionally only, a sunscreen with an SPF 15 to 30 is recommended.
- If you have a medium tone/brown skin that tans occasionally, a sunscreen with an SPF 5 to 15 is recommended.
- If you have dark skin that never gets sun burnt, a sunscreen with an SPF 10 or below is recommended.
Most sunblocks wear off in a few hours. Buying a water-resistant one can increase the effectiveness of the sunscreen for a few hours longer. Therefore, when choosing a sunscreen, always choose one which is water-resistant especially if you plan to work out or exercise after applying it.
SPRAY OR NAY?
Sunscreens come in all forms and types. The most popular form is the cream that is directly massaged on the face. However, some people prefer other types such as sprays, sticks and gels. When deciding which one to buy, here are some specifications you should look out for:
- Use a cream sunblock if your skin is normally dry
- Use a spray if you’re a busy person and always in a rush or need to apply it on a child. Care should be taken when applying and inhalation of the spray can be harmful.
- Like stick concealers, stick sunscreens are used under the eyes or on the bridge of the nose.
- Gel sunblocks are used on hairy surfaces and are usually recommended for men.
BRAND vs. DRUGSTORE
The choice between using a branded, cosmetic sunscreen and an over-the-counter drugstore sunscreen is constant topic of debate. While the appeal of the brand name and the product reliability in the price tag might make you want to choose a cosmetic sunscreen, many professionals and dermatologists recommend and prescribe pharmaceutical, drug-store sunscreens. The cheaper price on the drug-store sunscreen does not compensate for the quality of the sunblock; therefore it is silly to spend extravagantly on a product that sells with a higher price just because of its brand name.
Before making the final decision of which sunscreen to buy, always consult your dermatologist because an underlying allergy or disease might be aggravated by the application of your sunscreen of choice. Furthermore, even though sunscreens are an important line of defense against the sun, it is equally necessary to adopt other sun-protecting precautions such as wearing sunglasses outside, using an umbrella and staying in a shade as much as you can.