What’s All the Fuss About Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a skincare ingredient that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s UV rays and thus helps protect against sun damage. Many sunscreen products combine multiple ingredients to increase this protective ability.

UV Rays

  1. UVB are short high-energy wavelengths that damage the first layer of your skin (epidermis) and can cause:
  • Irritation
  • Sunburns
  • Some types of skin cancer
  • Hyperpigmentation

2. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB rays and causes:

  • Long-term damage to DNA
  • Premature aging (wrinkles and saggy skin)
  • Immediate darkening of skin

Types of Sunscreen

  1. Chemical sunscreens are those that contain synthesised chemicals like oxybenzone and they work by absorbing UV rays, converting it to heat and releasing it as infrared rays. They are lightweight and easily reapplied during the day. They also layer more seamlessly under makeup but can be irritating, especially to sensitive skin.These take 20 minutes after applying to start working as they need to be absorbed first.
  2. Physical sunscreens use natural minerals like zinc and titanium oxide which leave a white cast on the skin.These active minerals sit on top of the skin to reflect incoming UV rays and they work immediately after applying. It is better for sensitive skin but it’s a little heavier and more visible on the skin which means it’s not as easy to layer under makeup or reapply.

Stepping out without sunscreen

Whether or not it is ok to step out without sunscreen and for how long depends on two things:

  1. Your skin type

The fitzpatrick scale shows how long your skin type can stay in the sun without any sunscreen before experiencing damage.

  • Fair skin: 5–10 minutes
  • Olive skin: 15 minutes
  • Dark skin: 20 Minutes

2. Shadow Test

The length of your shadow cast outside determines if it’s safe to be without sunscreen.

If the shadow is long then that means the UV is lower (usually earlier on in the dayor later on in the day) but if the the shadow is short or nonexistent that means the sunis directly overhead and the UV is higher. In terms of time, the rays are strongest from 10 AM-4 PM and sunscreen is a must, regardless of your skin type.

SPF (sun protection factor)

This number indicates the percentage of UVB rays your sunscreen protects you from. Here are some common numbers:

  • SPF 15- blocks 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30- blocks 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50- blocks 98% of UVB rays

Research shows there’s actually very little difference in % with any SPF above 30. Also, in order to get the maximum protection you need to apply a good amount of sunscreen: about half a teaspoonful and reapply every 2 hours as the sunscreen breaks down over time.

Broad Spectrum

This indicates that the sunscreen protects the skin from UVA rays.

Sunscreen and makeup

Some makeup products like foundation have SPF labels on them but this cannot replace actual sunscreen in our routine because we don’t use nearly enough for it to work. For example on average, we use about 1.5 pumps of foundation to cover our face but in order to actually get sun protection we’d need to use 11 entire pumps. So although you can’t rely on it for sun protection, it can serve as a nice extra boost of protection after sunscreen.

Eunice Asare for Bare.

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