Today there are so many sunscreen types and brands in the market, that even the mighty Sun would be feeling uncomfortable shining. This is a very common concern faced by us all as to which sunscreen is best to use. In the following article, I have included few basic points which you can keep in mind while buying a sunscreen………but let me tell you one thing…..you might need to try one, two or may be few more brands or variety till you find a sunscreen that really makes you happy…….believe me….its worth a try for sure!!!
Always always always use a sunscreen that has a label saying ” broad spectrum” it signifies that it would provide protection against both UVA and UVB sun-rays, as these are both equally bad for your skin.
Please don’t get blinded by the high SPF being sold so boldly today. SPF relates to protection from UVB only and not against UVA.
Scientifically, SPF 15 filters out 93% of UV rays, SPF 30 filters out 97% and SPF 50 filters out 98% of UV rays. So you see…..the higher you go with SPF, the lesser is the difference in protection. Also, although higher SPF means higher protection from UVB but in doing so it compromises the protection against UVA, thereby giving lesser protection against UVA
I usually recommend:
SPF 15 and above
- For asian or dark skin types for everyday regular usage like being at home all day or when going out for very short while.
SPF 30 and above :
- For very fair skin types
- For all skin types if prolonged exposure in sun is anticipated
- If you have any sun related issues like melasma, lupus etc.
- After any skin procedures like lasers or peelings.
Unlike SPF, which measures UVB protection and about which everyone knows, the term showing UVA protection varies in different continents and countries. Most commonly used symbols are star rating (*, **, *** and so on) and PA rating (PA +, PA ++ and so on) More the number of ” * “ and “+”, higher is the UVA protection.
Sunscreen comes in various forms…gels, lotions, creams, spray, etc. What you pick is very important. What follows might help you with this challenge
- Creams : Suitable for very dry skin types
- Lotion / Fluid /Serum: Suitable for normal, mixed or oily skin types
- Gel: Suitable for oily skin, sportsperson or those involved in heavy sweating activities.
- Sprays: I am not a very big fan of these. It does not give uniform coverage and can at times enter your eyes and nose. Still if you like sprays, use it close to your skin and make sure you use 3-4 coats and evenly spread it all over.
- Sticks: Sticks are good for travel packs, but make sure to apply 3-4 coats for adequate protection. Also good for sportsperson.
- Sunscreen soaked wipes: Though not very effective, still can be used as they are very handy esp for kids. But ensure that you use at least one full wipe only for face and not whole body.
- sunscreen with mosquito repellents: Sounds attractive, but are generally inefficient. Totally avoid them. Use separate sunscreen and mosquito repellents instead.
- Water resistant: Must for swimmers and those going for water adventures……it means that the sunscreen would stay on your skin for at least 40 minutes in the water. You would need to reapply it after that.
- Tinted/colored : These have slight foundation mixed in them, in case you feel that the normal sunscreen is giving that whitish cakey look on your skin. Generally more needed by Asian skin types.
- Non-Comedogenic/oil free : These are good for very oily skin and for those who suffer from breakouts after applying sunscreen. Those with these issues should also preferably use mineral sunscreen as explained below.
- Physical / mineral sunscreen: a.k.a. sunblocks, contains zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide. These gives broad spectrum coverage and is good for kids above 6 months of age and those who have sensitive skin. Those with sensitive skin should also look for fragrance free sunscreen. Physical sunscreen may at times give a whitish tinge to the skin. No sunscreen is advisable for babies less than 6 months old.
- Chemical sunscreen: These are general sunscreen available in market which contains chemical sun-absorbers. It should not bother you much, but if you have the patience to read the labels, look for something like mexoryl / ecamsule or tinosorb or avobenzone as these give broad spectrum protection. But if you don’t have the time and patience, or forget these names….don’t worry….just look for broad spectrum label or “UVA & UVB” protection lable.
- Sunscreen with antioxidant: its like cherry on the cake…..Please go ahead….it will not only protect you against harmful UV rays but also repair the degenerated skin cells.
Prices and Brands:
I and you both know this….but just as a reminder….it is yet to be proven if the expensive sunscreens are in any way better than cheaper ones…..but still…..don’t go for price…..just try a brand which you trust
So, in a nut shell…..don’t just run for high SPF, look for sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. choose a formulation which suits your skin type and activity.
I hope this article helped in getting more familiar with the stuff written on the sunscreen bottle and next time you pick up a bottle, you can surprise the salesman with your intelligent questions…..Good luck.
Do let me know if you need any other clarification on choosing sunscreens. You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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