Protect your Skin | Avoid solar radiation with sunscreen

Published on: 16/06/2022

Sunscreen protection is not just to avoid sunburn. Learn why it is important and what factors to consider when choosing one for your skin.

Never. Skip. Sunscreen. While it is understandably a hassle for people who aren’t used to applying skin products, everyone should make it a habit to use sunscreen to protect their skin from the harmful UV rays that the sun emits. The use of sunscreen has been proven to prevent medical issues like sunburn, cancer, and skin aging. Its benefits are plenty, while its demerits are few and far between.

What kinds of sunscreens should I use?

Sunscreens can come in a variety of forms. The most common of which are body and face lotions. These sunscreens can be either mineral or chemical. The former is typically composed of zinc oxide and is what you’d imagine lifeguards wearing, turning their faces and arms a milky white. This type physically blocks the UV radiation, preventing it from touching the skin. The latter which has a multitude of compounds that are mixed together to create a barrier that blocks UV radiation. This type typically absorbs radiation and comprises most of the sunscreens on the market. 

Sunscreens can also come in the form of sprays, which are as effective compared to the typical lotion, but may need extra applications to ensure total coverage. Also, note that this type should never be sprayed directly in the face! Instead, spray your hands and gently apply the product, taking care to avoid the eyes and mouth. Oil-type sunscreen products may also be used, with Felder (2022) writing that they may have better comfort and aesthetic appeal.

What is SPF?

Sunscreen products can be subjected to evaluation, giving each an assigned Skin Protection Factor, or SPF value. This number tells you how good a product is at preventing sunburns, with higher values meaning better protection. The Food and Drug Administration suggests using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, going higher according to skin sensitivity.

Sunscreen active ingredients

Just like every other skin product or medication, the desired effects of each can be attributed to a few compounds among the long list of ingredients. For sunscreen, these active ingredients act after being absorbed into your skin. Example compounds include aminobenzoic acid, cinoxate, homosalate, octinoxate, and many other hard-to-pronounce compounds. Each and everyone of these has been deemed acceptable by the FDA (2021), so there’s no need to worry!

Properly using sunscreen

Lotions should be applied to areas exposed to direct sunlight. This should be reapplied after every two hours for maximum protection. It is important that enough product is applied to ensure that full blocking of UV radiation is achieved. Apply the sunscreen until there is a thin film of product on the skin. Try not to under-apply, as this proportionally decreases the declared SPF value of your sunscreen.

If you have more sensitive skin or your skin color is on the lighter side, it might be better to use higher SPF value sunscreens. This is because sensitive and light-skinned people are more susceptible to UV radiation effects like sunburn and skin cancer.

When going out, it would be wise to always have a small bottle of sunscreen ready on-hand. This ensures that you can always reapply UV protection and prevent the nasty medical conditions associated with unprotected exposure. Use sunscreen and avoid unnecessary harm to your body and mind.

Food and Drug Administration. (2021). Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun

Amber, K. (2014). Assessing The Current Market of Sunscreen: A Cross-Sectional Study of Sunscreen Availability in Three Metropolitan Counties in The United States. Journal of Skin Cancer. doi:10.1155/2014/285357

Felder, R. (2022). Save Your Face From the Sun. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/09/style/face-sunscreen-spf.html