The best quality sunscreens prevent tanning, dark spots, blemishes sunburn, slow down the signs of aging, and help prevent some types of skin cancer, but how do you choose from the many brands crowding the shelves? We give you the lowdown on what makes a good sunscreen, so you can enjoy your time in the sun worry free.
Your Complete Guide on How to Choose the Best Sunscreen
Whether you are heading out for a few hours, or plan to spend all day in the sun, sunscreen is critical for protecting your skin against sun damage, but it also provides a few other benefits as well. Here’s how to choose the best sunscreen to ensure you benefit from optimal sun protection for your skin type.
What is the Difference between Physical (sunblock) Versus Chemical Sunscreen ?
The main difference between a physical sunscreen and a chemical formulation lies in how they protect against the sun’s harmful rays. A chemical sunscreen contains compounds that absorb the sun’s rays and dissipates the energy before it can do damage. A physical formula that uses compounds like titanium or zinc oxide bounces the UV rays harmlessly back into the atmosphere before it can reach the skin. More subtle differences lay in how you apply sunscreen or sunblock. Your skin needs to absorb sunscreen to be effective, so it has to be rubbed in. On the other hand, you can simply slather on sunblock, but you do need to ensure you apply it evenly. Choose a Sunscreen SPF Rating Appropriate Depending on Your Time in The Sun The amount of time you spend in the sun plays a part in choosing an appropriate sunscreen. Sun protection factor (SPF) measures how long it will take for UVB rays to burn the skin relative to skin that has no sunscreen. The number next to SPF refers to the number of seconds a patch of sunscreen-protected skin will take to redden. For example, SPF 30 tells you that a skin patch took 300 seconds to get a minimal burn, while the sunscreen-free area took just 10 seconds. In case you were wondering, yes, sunscreens are tested by human volunteers exposing their skin to UV lamps. If you spend two hours or more outside, you should apply sunscreen with a rating of SPF 30 or higher. Sweat or water-resistant sunscreen is best for when you are swimming or playing sports. Be sure to re-apply sunscreen at least every hour. Sunscreens with an SPF rating of at least 30 can block up to97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays, while an SPF of 15 will only block around 93 percent.
Should You Wear Sunscreen Every Day ?
Yes, using a sunscreen every day, regardless of skin color or where you live, can block UV rays that can damage your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer and pigmentation. The right type of sunscreen will also help reduce the signs of aging such as wrinkles, blotchy complexion, and age spots.
How Much Sunscreen Do You Need, and How Often Should You Re-Apply ?
You should apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before exposing yourself to the sun. Adults should use approximately 5 ml of sunscreen (about a teaspoon’s worth) for each arm, leg, body front, body back, and face. The two-finger method is another approximation you can use to ensure an adequate layer of protection. Squeeze two strips of sunscreen from the tip to the base of the middle and index fingers when applying sunscreen to each of the body areas described above. Sunscreen should be re-applied every hour to two hours regardless of water resistance. Sweating during sports, swimming, and towel drying reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen.
Should You Choose a Broad-Spectrum SPF ?
Sunscreen rated as broad spectrum means it will protect against UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are long wave length rays that penetrate deep below the skin and can damage DNA and cause wrinkles and other signs of aging. UVA exposure also causes hyper pigmentation and is thought to be a leading cause of many types of skin cancers. UVB rays are the short-wave length rays behind sunburn, signs of aging, and skin cancer, but are unable to penetrate below the superficial skin layers. A high-quality broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 to 50 will provide superior protection against sun damage and burning. Broad spectrum sunscreens also reduce your skin’s exposure to UVA radiation.
What Does the Sunscreen PA Rating Mean ?
The PA rating is now listed alongside the SPF rating on many sunscreens and refers to the level of UVA protection, as in protection from UVA. The plus sign in the PA rating (PA+ to PA++++) refers to how much protection you will receive, with four pluses being the highest. UVA radiation does not burn, but it does cause the skin to turn brown. For this reason, the PA rating may not be as relevant in countries where the majority of citizens have darker skin.
Does Your Sunscreen Need Blue Light Filters ?
Blue light can’t cause damage to our skin like UVA and UVB, but high-energy blue light rays still have degenerative effects on our skin, such as free radical damage and premature aging. As research reveals more of blue light’s influence on our biology, more manufacturers are including blue light filters into their sunscreen formulations to minimize its effects.
Which Sunscreen Filters to Look For When Choosing a Sunscreen ?
- Tinosorb S – A photo stable filter often used to stabilize Avobenzone and mostly used in low concentrations. to boost SPF and UVA protection.
- Tinosorb A2B – A new ingredient not commonly found in sunscreens yet, but the carbon-based particle offers strong protection between UVA and UVB because of its ability to absorb and scatter UV rays.
- Tinosorb M – An insoluble sunscreen filter suspended in the other sunscreen ingredients. It can block UV as well as scatter it after absorption.
- Mexoryl XL – It’s oil soluble with excellent photo stability, making it a good candidate for water-resistant sunscreen formulations.
- Oxybenzone – This filter is often found in broad spectrum physical sunscreens to filter UVA and UVB.
- Octinoxate – This is a liquid UVB filter known to occasionally degrade into compounds that irritate after UV exposure. Better performance is achieved when it’s used with Zinc Oxide.
- Avobenzone – Is an excellent all-around UVA filter but needs to be used in the right formula for best results as it’s unstable on its own.
- Zinc Oxide – Often used as the sole filter because it’s allowed in high concentrations. Zinc Oxide is water insoluble, so it is applied as a suspension. Sunscreens with zinc oxide produce a white cast, but the formulas with smaller particle sizes produce a less significant cast for greater cosmetic appeal. Keep in mind that smaller particles have reduced peak absorbance and scatter less UVA.
- Uvinul A Plus – Often found in sunscreen due to its excellent photo stability. Sunscreen manufacturers can also add it in greater concentrations for increased UVA protection.
- Ecamsule – Is a photo stable UVA filter used to stabilize Avobenzone. It’s patented by L’Oreal, so is only available in those brands.
- Neo Heliopan AP – Is a water-soluble UVAII filter used in lightweight sunscreens. It’s a large molecule, which means it’s more likely to remain on the skin’s surface where it can work with other UVA filters to ensure broad spectrum protection.
- Uvinul T 150 – Is soluble in polar oils, making it a popular choice for water-resistant sunscreen formulations.
- Titanium Dioxide – This is an insoluble mineral suspended in the sunscreen formula to create excellent protection against UVAII and UVB rays but provides little UVA I protection. Low-grade titanium dioxide formulas may generate free radicals from photo excitation, Like Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide creates a white cast on the skin, with smaller particles delivering greater cosmetic appeal but less UV attenuation.
- Octocrylene – Is used in sunscreens because it helps to stabilize UVA protection provided by Avobenzone. Unfortunately, it is a known allergen so should not be used on children under 3.
- Octisalate – Can penetrate the dermis when used in the wrong solvents and is a relatively weak UVB filter.
- Homosalate – This is a weak UVB filter like all other salicylates and is not very photostable.
- Ensulizole – This is a water-soluble UVB filter often used in products requiring a light texture. Molecules are small and may be able to penetrate the epidermis.
- Polysilicone-15 – Is an efficient UVB absorber with a large molecule that is unable to penetrate the skin.
- Iscotrizinol – Filters UVB efficiently and its large molecule will prevent it from penetrating the skin barrier. It’s often used because of its excellent photo stability.
How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Your Skin Type ?
Choosing a sunscreen based on your skin type will help you avoid issues like acne breakouts or pigmentation. Sunscreen can be applied via lotion, gel, or spray. They all offer the same level of protection, so it’s mainly a matter of preference and convenience. We recommend our patients start their day with only the best is sun protection, which is why our recommendations include only the most reputable sunscreen manufacturers.
- Sunscreen for oily skin:
Skin that feels greasy or oily a few hours after washing means you probably have oily skin. Choose an oil-free, non-comedogenic, mineral-based sunscreen that won’t add to the oil already present. Non-comedogenic is a fancy term that tells you the sunscreen won’t clog your skin’s pores.
- Sunscreen for dry skin:
Choose a sunscreen with added skin nourishment properties, especially if you don’t use a moisturizer. Look for active ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and antioxidants to fight against skin-damaging free radicals.
- Sunscreen for normal skin:
You won’t need a specially formulated sunscreen with intense moisturizing properties, but normal skin will still benefit from a non-comedogenic sunscreen that feels light on the skin and comfortable for all-day use.
- Sunscreen for combination skin:
Choosing a sunscreen for skin that is oily in some spots and dry in others is understandably challenging. However, the best types of sunscreen for combination skin include oil-free, non-comedogenic, lightweight sunscreens. Sunscreen ingredients to look for include hyaluronic acid and ceramide to lock in moisture while adding a layer of sun protection.
- Sunscreen for acne-prone skin:
Many sunscreens will clog pores, making your skin more prone to an acne outbreak. Choose sunscreens with oil-free formulas. A mineral sunscreen will play nicely with acne-prone skin, and a non-comedogenic variety is critical to keeping your pores free and clear.
- Sunscreen for melasma:
Sunscreen application should be a critical part of daily skin care for everybody, but more so for people with melasma or hyper pigmentation (darkening skin). We don’t know what causes melasma, but we do know that sun exposure exacerbates skin blemishes. Physical sunscreen will perform better than chemical variants. Melasma is influenced by ultraviolet, infrared, and visible light rays, so physical formulas that sit on top of the skin are the best for deflecting all three types of sun rays.
- Sunscreen for pigmentation:
The best sunscreens to protect against freckles, lentigines, and other forms of sun-induced pigmentation are broad spectrum formulas with an SPF 30 or higher rating. Some dermatologists also recommend mineral-based sunscreen ingredients for people with an uneven skin tone. Mineral sunscreens add a physical barrier to block UV light before it can reach the skin.
|Skin Type||Recommended Sunscreens|
|Sunscreen for oily skin||Blu bloc, Photon Matt & Bio Uv 50 tinted|
|Sunscreen for dry skin||Photon Hydra, I shield & Bioderma aquafluid tint|
|Sunscreen for normal skin||Photon sunscreen gel, Cetaphil sun Gel & Bioderma photoderm Creme|
|Sunscreen for combination skin||Photon Hydra & Fixderma shadow gel|
|Sunscreen for acne-prone skin||Blu Bloc & Photon Matt|
|Sunscreen for melasma||Bio UV 50 & Bioderma aquafluid tint|
|Sunscreen for pigmentation||Bio UV 50 & Bioderma age spot|
Sunscreen and Skin Color
Dark skin produces more melanin, a chemical that absorbs damaging UV radiation and provides dark-skinned people with a natural SPF rating of around 13. However, health experts advise everyone to use sunscreen protection, regardless of skin color. Dark-skinned people may not sunburn as quickly, but they still burn and are susceptible to sun damage such as early wrinkles, sunspots, and cancer. There is a dangerous, but commonly held belief that dark skin is not at risk of skin cancer. Therefore, many dark-skinned people do not take appropriate measures against sun damage and are less likely to get regular skin checkups. As a result, when they do get a skin cancer diagnosis, the disease is in a later stage and much harder to treat.
Safest Sunscreen Products Available in India
Shadow Body Spray Sunscreen
A terrific all-around sunscreen broad spectrum for protection against UVA rays and UVB rays with a non-greasy water-resistant spray that’s easy to apply over a large surface area.
Rivela Tint Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
Great for dry and oily skin, this vitamin E lotion goes on smooth to protect against UVB and UVA rays.
Blu-Bloc Sunscreen Gel
Don’t let those pesky blue rays get under your skin. Keep your youthful appearance for longer with this convenient gel that cools and soothes as you apply it.
La Shield Sunscreen Gel
A broad spectrum SPF 40 gel with a PA+++ rating for superb protection against UVA and UVB radiation for all skin types.
Photon Matt Gel
Get a massive 6+ hrs of sun protection against UVA and UVB.
Heliocare Sunscreen Gel
This potent SPF 50 sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays while keeping the skin suitably moisturized, making it perfect for dry skin.
Other Ways to Protect Against Sun
Adequate clothing should be everybody’s first line of defense against sun damage. Long sleeves and pants or attire that covers your body is always recommended. Extra clothing will also reduce your reliance on sunscreen as you will only need it for the face and hands. Hats provide extra protection for your face, and you should wear sunglasses for your eyes. If you are spending a leisurely day outside make sure you take an umbrella so you can sit in the shade, or find a shady tree, but don’t forget the sunscreen. The sun’s damaging rays are reflective, so even overcast weather or shade won’t offer complete protection. Always wear sunscreen properly according to the manufacturer’s directions, so you always get the best results regardless of the type of sunscreen products you choose. Once you get into the habit of applying sunscreen every day, it will seem like a regular part of your routine, like brushing teeth, rather than an unnecessary chore. If you are still unsure about the type of sunscreen that will work best for you, get in touch with your dermatologist for expert advice today.
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