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Understanding Your Sunscreen

Sunscreen; before you cry and run the other way because it is “too greasy” “too thick” “too white” “too heavy” and it makes you breakout remember is the most important step when it comes to beauty products (yes, even more important than cleansing) so you should be using it, every day. Not just when you are going for a swim with your friends down the beach. Choosing a sunscreen can be really confusing so I’ve narrowed down the basics to help you get a better understanding of your sunscreen, plus some recommendations too.

Best Natural Sunscreens

Favourites from left to right: Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturiser SPF 40, Boscia Self-Defense Vital Antioxidant Moisture SPF 30 , Wot Not Face & Body SPF 30+ Sunscreen.

UV Rays

Not all sunscreens will protect you against UVB and UVA rays, most of them will only protect you against UVB rays, so always opt for a broad spectrum sunscreen. In Asian countries brands tend to use PA to measure the protection a sunscreen provides against UVA rays.

UVA: Ultra Violet Aging, these rays are the cause of wrinkles, pigmentation, premature aging, and skincare. UVB will provide very minimal protection against aging.

UVB: Ultra Violet Burning will protect you from burning and redness and should be in any sunscreen you purchase.

Physical VS Chemical Sunscreens.

There are two different types of sunscreens on the market, physical and chemical. Ultra Violet (UV) filters are active ingredients that prevent the sun from burning and aging you.

Physical:

Common active ingredients: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide

Physical sunscreens work by reflecting and blocking UV rays off your skin. It is usually labelled as Sunblock or Inorganic sunscreen. Physical sunscreens are usually less irritating to the skin (as zinc oxide is known for repairing the skin) however they are the culprit for thickness, greasiness and that white cast you often get with sunscreen. If the white over-cast is far too much for you then try using a tinted version. Physical sunscreens will usually work straight after being applied.

Chemical:

Common active ingredients: Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Dioxybenzone, Ecamsule, Helioplex.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays into your skin instead of blocking them. It is often labelled as organic sunscreen which can be a bit misleading as Physical sunscreens are derived from natural ingredients, unlike chemical sunscreens.  Chemical sunscreens are known to be more irritating to the skin and comedgenic (pore clogging) they also need to be applied at-least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

SPF:

The Sun Protection Factor of your sunscreen is one of the most important things you need to know in your sunscreen. Luckily most brands make this easily to identify on their packaging. These labels are usually a number and usually range anywhere from 15 to 70 (30 or 50 in some countries)

This means you can stay in the sun for longer than you usually would without getting burnt. Let’s say I burned easily because of my fair skin after 20 minutes of sun exposure and I was using an SPF of 30 I’d multiply 20 by 30 which means I’d be able to stay in the sun for 600 minutes without getting burnt instead of 20. If you are using one product that contains SPF 25 and one that contains SPF 5 this doesn’t mean you are getting a protection of SPF 30.

The higher the number of the Sun Protection Factor is generally speaking better than a lower number. Anything above SPF 30 should give you a decent amount of sun protection. However this is only provided that you the correct amount, if you only use a small amount of sunscreen it won’t be effective so you need to ensure you are using a large amount.

Water Resistance:

In some countries brands are no longer allowed to label their sunscreens as water resistant as it can mislead people into thinking they don’t need to re-apply. If you’ve been swimming sunscreen needs to be re-applied at-least every 40 minutes.

Application:

If you don’t apply enough sunscreen you might as well be applying nothing at all. The higher the number doesn’t mean the less you need to use.

Shot glass for sunscreen

On average a shot glass or two tablespoons of sunscreen should be used per a body part (face, neck, arms, legs, back, etc) you don’t need to apply it so thickly that you can’t even see your skin but if you think you’ve applied too much, apply some more just to be safe. When it comes to makeup your sunscreen should be applied after your moisturiser but before your primer (or you could just be a smartie pants and do one better, use a moisturiser with sun protection) You should also re-apply every two hours, if you don’t want to do this because of your makeup try using a setting powder which contains sun protection.

Expiration:

Most sunscreens will usually be effective for up to three years after opening. However if it has been sitting in your beach bag all summer on in the glove box of your car think again. Too much heat can disrupt the active ingredients in your sunscreen so I prefer to replace my sunscreen annually, before the beginning of every summer.

Skin-tone:

One of the biggest misconceptions about sun protection is that you don’t need to wear it if you have a darker skin tone, this isn’t true. Although darker skin tones (from Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans just to name a few) have a higher concentration of melanin (which absorbs UV rays) sun protection is still important as skin cancer and aging still pose a risk. Those with fair skin (especially red heads) are usually prone to burning the easiest.

Climate:

Whether you live in a hot climate or not it is still important that you use sunscreen if you know you will be outside for long periods of time. Even if it is snowing, raining, windy or cloudy UV rays are still present so make sure you wear some sun-protection, even if it is as little as SPF 15, you can still get burnt and prematurely age.

Vitamin D:

Whilst I’m an advocate for wearing sunscreen every day to prevent wrinkles and skin cancer I’m not an advocate for Vitamin D deficiency. The best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is to download an app on your smart phone that shows you when the UV levels are strongest for the day, when the UV levels are the low spend 10 to 15 minutes outside. For Australians I like the SunSmart app.

Other Precautions:

A sunscreen can only do so much so you still need to take other precautions to prevent sunburn, skin-cancer and aging.Floppy Hat Try and stay in the shade and stay inside when the sun is the strongest (usually in the middle of the day in-between 10 am to 4pm) and make sure you wear sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing (opt for lighter coloured clothing which reflects the sun instead of darker colours) you can still look chic - everything is hot about over-sized sunnies, a floppy wide-brimmed hat and a breezy kaftan.

My Favourites:

After this super long post you are probably wondering what my favourites are. I only use natural and organic sunscreens, I find they are more gentle on the skin and they don’t contain ingredients such as mineral oil which can increase skins photo-sensitivity (making skin more sensitive to the sun) I love Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 40, Boscia Self-Defense Vital Antioxidant Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 both feel super light on the face and don’t leave an intense white cast. For the body I love Wot Not Face & Body SPF 30 sunscreen.

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