We usually associate sun damage with our skin tanning and pigmentation, but skin aging, lines and wrinkles also comes in the sun damage category. It’s important to know a little in detail about Sun Protection to keep those issues related to sun damage at bay.
What is a Sunscreen or Sunblock | SPF or PA ?
Sunscreens are products like a Lotion, Cream, Spray, Gel or other combining several ingredients that help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. (UV rays damage the skin, age it prematurely, and increase your risk of skin cancer)
A Sunscreen or a Sunblock is the most important step of your skincare routine. Ideally, you should use sun protection throughout the year, but it becomes even more important in the summers when the sun rays causes skin damage.
When exposed to the sun, our bare skin tends to get red, swollen etc. because of the internal damages by UV rays. This is commonly known as sunburn. UV rays can be divided into UVA, UVB and UVC rays which all cannot be detected by the naked eye.
UVA – The Ageing ray and main reason behind sun related skin cancers. It destroys the vitamin A in our skin and also indirectly causes DNA damage.
UVB – The Sunburn ray. This ray directly causes DNA damage to skin cells.
UVC – The most powerful out of all three rays, but most often filtered so there’s almost none of it when it reaches our skin.
How Sunscreen’s Work & their effectiveness?
Sunscreens help shield you from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays in two-three ways. Some work by scattering the rays, reflecting it away from your body. Others absorb the UV rays before they reach your skin. This way, our skin isn’t directly exposed or harmed by UV rays.
Diligent use of sunscreen or a sunblock can also slow or temporarily prevent the development of wrinkles and sagging skin.
The effectiveness of the sun protection product depends on correct application. The product’s packaging contains instructions for application which must be observed to achieve the full protective effect.
What is SPF & PA?
Sunscreens are commonly rated & labeled with a SPF & PA that measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin. For example, “SPF 15” means that 1/15th of the burning radiation reaches the skin through the recommended thickness of sunscreen.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor & PA stands for Protection Grade of UVA established by the Japanese. It basically informs users of the level of protection towards UVA rays.
The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) scale is not linear:
SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
whereas, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
& SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
PA+ means the sunscreen provides some protection against UVA rays
whereas, PA++ indicates moderate protection while
& PA+++ or PA++++ shows very good protective abilities against UVA rays.
Since UVA causes long term skin damage, it is therefore advisable to go for sunscreens with the highest PA or SPF rating.
Important Note: Sunscreens with higher SPF do not last or remain effective on the skin any longer than lower SPF, and must be continually reapplied as directed, usually every hours.
How to apply the Sunscreen or Sunblock?
Instead of massaging it all over your face or neck, apply the sunblock on your face using a finger and dab it along your T-zone and cheeks. This will help with application, prevents using too much sunscreen which can lead to breakouts and excess oil build up, and helps you get enough in all the right areas of your face.
When to apply & re-apply the Sunscreen or Sunblock?
Sunscreens should be applied before putting on any makeup and 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully absorb to the skin.
Re-application of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so re-apply the same amount every two hours. Also, Sunscreens should also be re-applied immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a great deal.
Who should use a Sunscreen?
Anyone over the age of six months should use a sunscreen daily. Even those who work inside are exposed to ultraviolet radiation for brief periods throughout the day, especially if they work near windows, which generally filter out UVB but not UVA rays.
Children under the age of six months should not be exposed to the sun, since their skin is highly sensitive to the chemical ingredients in sunscreen as well as to the sun’s rays.
What if it’s cold or cloudy outside?
Up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a complete cloudy day. This often leads to the most serious sunburns, because people spend all day outdoors with no protection on.
Factors such as how much sunscreen you apply, the weather, amount of sweating, swimming, drying yourself and skin types will also affect your level of protection.
How Sunscreen is Different from Sunblock?
We often believe that Sunscreen or Sunblock are a same thing, but this is not true. They actually posses different characteristics. Sunblock provides better protection from UV rays compared to Sunscreen as they contain a more opaque formulation, hence, require less bouts of reapplying.
The chemicals in sunscreens breakdown at a faster rate under sun exposure so are comparatively, a little less effective than sunblocks. Apart from that, sunscreens are better suited for daily use while sunblocks are best for sports or activities requiring higher exposure to UV rays.
What type of Sunscreens should you use?
It highly depends on how much sun exposure you’re anticipating.
Many after-shave lotions and moisturizers have a sunscreen (usually SPF 15 or greater) already in them, and this is sufficient for everyday activities with a few minutes here and there in the sun.
However, if you work outside or spend a lot of time outdoors, you need stronger, water-resistant type sunscreen that holds together on your skin. The “water resistant” type is also good for hot days or while playing sports, because they’re less likely to drip into your eyes when you sweat.
How to choose the best Sunscreen or Sunblock for your skin?
Years ago, choosing a good sunscreen meant you were looking for a high sun protection factor (SPF) — which rates how well the sunscreen protects against one type of cancer-causing UV ray, ultraviolet B (UVB) SPF refers to blockage of UVB rays only.
Research shows that ultraviolet A rays (UVA) also increase skin cancer risk. While UVA rays don’t cause sunburn, they penetrate deeply into skin and cause wrinkles. As per the the Environmental Protection Agency, estimates are that up to 90% of skin changes associated with aging are really caused by a lifetime’s exposure to UVA rays.
Your facial skin is considerably thinner and also more sensitive than your body skin. This means that it needs a lot of protection and care. Make sure you have a sunscreen that protects from both UVA & UVB.
Always choose a suitable formula for your skin type. Your sunscreen should not break your skin out and should not cause you any skin irritation.
1. Sun Protection for Normal to Dry Skin
Opt for a Sunscreen or Sunblock that has a moisturizing, non-greasy formula that provides SPF 30 protection against sun damage and premature aging. Opt for a cream-based sunblock.
I highly recommend you to try out the Lotus Herbals Safe Sun Sun-Block Cream with PA++ SPF-30 – SPF 30 PA++
2. Sun Protection for Oily or Combination Skin
Go for a Sunscreen or Sunblock that is Oil-free and non-greasy. I highly recommend the Neutrogena Oil free moisture with SPF 15 for normal use when you are in sunlight for least time & recommend you to try out the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock with SPF 50+ & PA+++
For the oily skin, gel or aqua-based SPF formulations work the best. This has a drying effect and does not make the skin look greasy.
3. Sun Protection for Sensitive Skin
Thick, greasy lotions may trigger an acne breakout. Fragrances, dyes and alcohol might cause allergic reactions as well. Chemical sun blockers, such as oxybenzone, may also aggravate the skin. Go for Broad Spectrum Sunblocks that is Water-Resistant, non-greasy and sweat-proof.
If breakouts are a problem, Non-comedogenic sunscreens won’t clog pores.
Note: As a guideline, SPF 30 PA+++ for daily wear, SPF50 PA+++ for outdoor activities or for people living in the hottest areas is must. I highly recommend you to try out the Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 60 PA+
4. Sun Protection for Body
The skin of your is considerably thicker than the facial skin. So you can use a Lotion or a moisturizer which has SPF in it. I highly recommend the Nivea Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF-50 125 ml – SPF 50 PA++
Few Other Tips
Your Babies & toddlers should never be allowed to sit or play in direct sunlight. Give babies and children the extra protection they need. Their skin is thinner and less able to repair damage than adult skin.
Avoid direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Between the hours of 10am to 4pm, the UVA and UVB rays are at their strongest. This period may start earlier and finish later in summer.
If you can’t avoid being in the sun for a long time, always protect yourself with the correct clothing. This includes wearing a hat, a t-shirt or other item of clothing that covers your shoulders, and sunglasses with UV protection.
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