Choosing the right sunscreen
The most common turn off for people with darker skin tone, is the whitening they experience when wearing sunscreens. This is especially more so when the sunscreen is formulated with physical sun blocks like zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
For this reason, micronized version of zinc and titanium oxide have been developed to reduce the whitening.
Also, some sunscreens are formulated using a combination of both organic and inorganic sunscreen filters to reduce the whitening and even better there are tined sunscreen Formulas now available and you can choose which sunscreen closely matches your skin tone.
There are three types of radiations from the sun, UVA,UVC and UVB rays.
UVC -This is the shortest wave length and potentially, most damaging of the suns rays. DNA and protein molecules absorb UVC due to their molecular structure. Fortunately for us UVC is absorbed in the atmosphere by the ozone layer. However, the current thinning of this layer now means that we are exposed to more UVC rays than before .
UVB_ This is the most potent wavelength as it can permeate into the epidermis where it affects the DNA and can create lipid peroxides, precursors of free radicals. UVB is the wavelength responsible for sunburn. It is usually most dangerous at the middle of the day and less in the mornings and late evenings.
UVA- Even though this wavelength is about 1000 times less damaging than UVB, it is nonetheless far from harmless. UVA rays are longer than UVB rays and 90% of the sunlight reaching the earth is made up of UVA rays. They are the AGEING RAYS which penetrate deeper into the skin (the dermis) and are responsible for the damage to your collagen and elastin causing freckles, blotchiness and pigmentation issues.
While UVB peaks at high noon, UVA is fairly constant all through the day all year long.
UVA rays can penetrate cloud cover, tinted glass and clothing relatively easily, so you are not protected while driving in a car or inside a house.
UVA can lead to immune suppression, resulting in skin cancer in most severe cases.
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to skin cancer. So basically, SPF is a standardised measure that indicaes how much additional time you can spend in the sun without getting burned.
For instance if you would ususally spend 10 mins in the sun before getting burned, an SPF 15 will increase that time 15X, so that you can spend an additional (10X15) mins without getting burned.
Once that time is up you will need to reapply your sunscreen for continued protection.
The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) scale is not linear:
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
So, one way of looking at this is that SPF 30 sunscreen only gives you 4% more protection than SPF 15 sunscreen.
It is recommended to wear a broad spectrum suncream with an SPF of at least 30 daily. Broad spectrum sunscreens give UVA as well as UVB protection, to protect not just against sunburn but also photo aging.
Choosing the right sunscreen
- Physical sunscreens contain inert minerals that reflect or block UV rays. The molecules are not absorbed by the skin an hence less likely to irritate the skin so this kind of sunscreen will be generally better for people with sensitive skin.
- Chemical sunscreens on the other hand, contain synthetic chemicals that absorb UV rays. Some of the ingredients can be absorbed through the skin and cause irritations. PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) is one of the common sensitivity triggers to look out for!
- When choosing your sunscreen, look for ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium oxide, avobenzone (the most effective ingredient for absorbing UVA rays).
- Make sure your sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection (i.e. bot UVA and UVB protection)
- Sunscreens that contain antioxidants such as vitamin E, flavonoids and ascorbic acid to neutralise free radicals damage, and trigger the repair process will be excellent.
- Always do a patch test for sensitivity before using any sunscreen and choose a product that suits your skin type. for example oily skin types can go for gel based sunscreens while creams and lotions might be best for dry skin.
- Also use a water resistant sunscreen while swimming.
Why should I wear a daily sunscreen?
- Because 80% of all sun exposure is incidental, so while walking, driving to work, taking a break outdoors , siting outside at noon for lunch, etc.. you are exposing your skin to UV rays.
- Even on a seemingly overcast day, there are still UVA rays reaching the earth and potentially causing damage to your skin (photo-aging).
- Some cosmetic ingredienst such as AHAs (alpha hydroxyl acids) e.g lactic acid, BHAs (Beta hydroxyl acids), Retinol, some lightening agents and some essential oils in skin care products can increase your skins sensitivity to the sun’s rays.
- Also certain medications such as antibiotics, antimalarial, Retin-A, Roaccutane, antidepressants or some hormone replacement therapies can increase photosensitivity.
- Obviously, wearing sunscreens daily will help keep your skin looking younger by preventing photoaging, help to even out your skin tone and deal with sun induced hyper-pigmentation issues and free radical damage caused by the sun.
How to apply a sunscreen
- Apply generously and spread evenly across the skin, 30 minutes before going out in the sun (in the case of chemical sunscreens)
- Reapply every two hours when outdoors
- Reapply after swimming or if perspiring excessively.