Block the Sun, Not the Fun (Choosing the Best Sun Protection)
Updated: Sep 21
Applying protection from the sun is an essential part of any skincare routine, and it is crucial to choose the right one for your skin type and lifestyle. With so many options available in the market, it can be difficult to choose the best one. In this blog post, we will discuss why you need sun protection, how it works, ingredients to look out for, FDA regulations, what are SPF numbers, how long sunscreen and sunblock lasts, and how to apply it correctly. Although it isn’t unusual to hear the words sunblock and sunscreen used interchangeably, they’re actually two very different types of sun protection.
What is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?
Sunscreen is a chemical defense, penetrating the skin and absorbing the UV rays before they reach and damage the dermal layers of the skin.
Sunblock is a physical defense against ultraviolet (UV) rays. It stays on top of the skin and acts as a barrier. It can be referred to as a physical sunscreen
We will use the term sunscreen throughout this blog to refer to both chemical and physical sunscreens when not specific.
Why do you need protection from the Sun?
Sunscreens protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun's UV rays. Overexposure to UV rays can cause skin damage, premature aging, and increase your risk of skin cancer (the most common form of cancer). Even on cloudy days, UV rays can penetrate your skin, so it's essential to wear sun protection every day, regardless of the weather.
How does sun protection work?
Sunscreens contain active ingredients that work by either absorbing or reflecting UV rays. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, while physical sunscreens reflect them (sunblocks). Some sunscreens use a combination of both to provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Ingredients you may see:
The active ingredients in sunscreens can vary, and it's essential to choose a sunscreen that is safe and effective for your skin. Here are some ingredients to look for when choosing a sunscreen:
Zinc oxide: This physical sunscreen ingredient reflects both UVA and UVB rays and is suitable for sensitive skin types.
Titanium dioxide: Another physical sunscreen ingredient that is effective against UVA and UVB rays and is less likely to irritate sensitive skin.
Avobenzone: A chemical sunscreen ingredient that provides excellent protection against UVA rays.
Octinoxate: A chemical sunscreen ingredient that is effective against UVB rays and is often used in combination with other sunscreen ingredients to minimize it getting absorbed in the skin.
The FDA regulates sunscreens in the United States and requires all sunscreens to meet specific requirements. Look for sunscreens that are labeled "broad-spectrum" and have an SPF of 30 or higher. Also, check the label for the active ingredients to make sure they are safe and effective.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures the sunblock's effectiveness in blocking UVB rays. The higher the SPF number, the more protection the sunblock provides. However, it's essential to note that SPF only measures protection against UVB rays and not UVA rays, but most of sunburns are caused by the UVB range.
How long does sunscreen last?
Sunscreens lasts for two hours, and you should reapply it every two hours, especially if you're sweating or swimming. Water-resistant sunscreens are available and are ideal for outdoor activities, but they still need to be reapplied every two hours.
How to apply sunscreens correctly?
To get the most out of your sunscreen, it's essential to apply it correctly. Here are some tips for applying sunscreen:
Apply sunscreens 15-20 minutes before going outside.
You may need to use at least one ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass, to cover all exposed skin.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Use a lip balm with a high SPF to protect your lips.
Wear protective clothing, such as hats and long-sleeved shirts, to cover your skin.
Choosing the right sunscreen is crucial for protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun's UV rays. Look for sunscreen labeled "broad-spectrum" with an SPF of 30 or higher and contain safe and effective active ingredients. Apply sunscreens correctly and reapply every two hours, and you'll be able to enjoy the sun safely.