There are two cardinal sins when it comes to skincare that all people, men and women, and all skin types, should absolutely avoid – the first and the foremost, not removing makeup at the end of the day and second, not applying sunscreen before stepping out. Sun rays can damage your skin in more ways than you can imagine – applying a sunscreen with good SPF is necessary to prevent hyperpigmentation, age spots, premature ageing, apart from skin cancer. Skincare experts and dermatologists recommend that you should apply sunscreen (broad spectrum with good SPF) liberally at least 15 to 20 minutes before stepping outside in order to get near-about protection from your sunscreen. Don’t take weather conditions into consideration before slathering on sunscreen because come rain, shine or hail, you should wear sunscreen every single day of the year. People with oily skin often skip wearing a sunscreen because of the stickiness, heaviness and white cast that most sunscreens leave on their skin, but nowadays, there are a whole lot of products that are designed keeping in mind specific skin types, so whatever your skin type, there’s a sunscreen out there that would feel comfortable on your skin. You just have to read the labels before picking up the product.
HOW DO SUNSCREENS WORK?
Sunscreens are available in various forms, like lotion, cream, gel and can be composed of either organic or inorganic ingredients. A few sunscreens work by blocking harmful UV rays and some others absorb UV rays before it reaches into the deep layers of the skin. Inorganic ingredients (that do not contain carbon) like zinc oxide and titanium oxide are minerals that are considered natural ingredients and they work by physically blocking harmful sun rays by deflecting them. Some sunscreens use organic ingredients (contain carbon) like avobenzone and oxybenzone. These components actually do not deflect rays, instead absorbs them and release heat.
WHAT IS SPF
A lot of importance is given to SPF (sun protection factor) when it comes to sunscreen and is a measurement up to which a sunscreen can protect the skin. The higher the SPF, the better is its ability to prevent sunburns from UVB rays. To explain it better, if your skin has a tendency to develop sunburns in 10 minutes, a sunscreen with SPF 15 would multiply by 10, which means you can get up to 150 minutes of protection from that sunscreen. Similarly, a sunscreen with SPF 15 will protect your skin 15 times more longer than normal, that is up to 2.5 hours if your skin develops sunburns in 15 minutes. It is interesting to note that sunscreens with SPF 30 and SPF 50 can block up to 97% of UVB rays. However, it is interesting to note that SPF can only block UVB rays and cannot block UVA rays. So, choosing a sunscreen with SPF is only half the work, you have to remind yourself to pick a sunscreen with “broad spectrum” coverage so that UVA and UVB rays are both taken care of and do not reach the skin.
WHAT DOES PA++ DENOTE IN SUNSCREENS?
A lot of issues that you see on your skin are the result of unprotected exposure to UV rays from the sun which can damage the skin cells and blood vessels to a great extent leading to sunburns, premature ageing, wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, blotchy complexion, hyperpigmentation, melasma etc. When UV rays hit the skin for a long time, DNA gets altered and that can lead to skin cancer. UV rays can be divided into – UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. UVA rays cause premature ageing, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation of skin, and cancer. UVB rays on the other hand can result in sunburn, discoloration, and sunburns. UVC rays do not reach the earth and get absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere, so that’s not at all a reason for concern. PA ratings indicate the protection a sunscreen provides from UVA rays. PA+ value means the sunscreen that you have picked up provides a bit of protection against UV rays, PA++ denotes moderate capacity, PA+++ denotes highest capacity and is most commonly found in sunscreens. PA++++ is the highest value and only some sunscreens provide such a barrier.
IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS TO LOOK FOR IN SUNSCREENS
- Natural Ingredients: Natural ingredients act as physical sunscreens and block UV rays out. Titanium dioxide, zinc dioxide are approved by FDA. Titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide used to leave a ghastly white cast on the skin, but nowadays, sunscreens with these ingredients do not show any such issue.
- Synthetic Ingredients: These ingredients absorb UV rays and break them down. Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Avobenzone.
- Sunscreens with “helioplex complex” provide full protection from UVA and UVB rays.
- Broad-spectrum Ingredients: Broad spectrum sunscreens can block both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can cause skin cancer whereas UVA can cause premature ageing and wrinkles on your skin. Sunscreens with ingredients like titanium dioxide, benzophenones (oxybenzone),sulisobenzone, cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), salicylates, avobenzone, zinc oxide, ecamsule, Mexoryl SX can stop both UVA and UVB from damaging the skin.
- Ingredients that block UVA rays: Ecamsule, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone.
- Mexoryl SX or ecamsule.
- Active Photo Barrier Complex is a stabilized form of avobenzone that would not break down easily upon exposure to sunlight.
- Dermaplex complex in sunscreens would also not break down easily upon exposure to light.
- For kids, avoid sunscreen with para-aminobenzonic acid (PABA), oxybenzone etc because they can irritate the sensitive skin of children. For kids, titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide based sunscreens are better. People with sensitive and acne-prone skin should also avoid PABA, oxybenzone, dioxybenzone, etc. and only opt for sunscreens with zinc dioxide and titanium dioxide.
HOW TO CHOOSE A SUNSCREEN
- Look for broad-spectrum sunscreens that would tackle both UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
- If you have acne-prone skin, look for non-comedogenic sunscreens which would not clog pores and lead to acne.
- Pick sun block with at least SPF 30, anything less than that would not provide you enough protection.
- It should be a lightweight foundation that would not feel heavy on your skin.
- Should suit all skin types – normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive.
- Water and sweat resistant formulas are great if you are a water baby or an outdoor person.
- Should not leave any chalky or white residue on skin.
- Should be dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested.
- Should not stain clothes.
- Should not sting.
- Paraben-free formulas.
TYPES OF SUNSCREEN
Sunscreens have two types of blockers – physical and chemical. The chemical blockers absorb ultraviolet radiation, convert it to heat and dispel it through the skin. The physical blockers reflect UV rays and scatter it away from the skin. Most sunscreens use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to block UV rays. Chemical blockers absorb the rays so that the skin doesn’t absorb them. There are a lot of sunscreen variations available in the market. They are now available in mineral, lotion, gel, cream, stick, spray forms.
BEST SUNSCREENS FOR WOMEN
1. SUPERGOOP UNSEEN SUNSCREEN SPF 40
This 100% invisible with SPF 40 comes with makeup priming properties. It is also the winner of Allure 2018 Best of Beauty Awards. The active ingredients in this sun block are avobenzone 3%, homosalate 8%, octinoxate 4.5%, and Octisalate 5%. The best feature of this sunscreen along with SPF 40 is its ability to double up as a primer.
2. LA ROCHE-POSAY ANTHELIOS 50 TINTED MINERAL ULTRA FLUID SUNSCREEN
This sunscreen comes packed with the goodness of La Roche-Posay’s trademark thermal spring water with cell-ox shield technology and broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection with titanium dioxide. It’s also water resistant and suitable even for sensitive skin. The USP of La Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Tinted Mineral Ultra Fluid Sunscreen is its light, matte tint which is suitable even for sensitive skin and antioxidant rich formula which protects skin from free radicals at the same time.
3. JOSIE MARAN ARGAN DAILY MOISTURIZER SPF 47
A sunscreen that’s good for all skin types – normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive. The main ingredients of this lotion are zinc dioxide and titanium dioxide along with 100% pure argan oil that tackles uneven skin tone and dullness along with providing protection against harmful sun rays with SPF 47.
4. SUN BUM FACE LOTION SPF 50
This is a matte finish face lotion with SPF 50 that does not feel sticky on the skin. Though it goes weightless on the skin, this sunscreen provides complete coverage with avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate. You should apply this sunscreen at least 15 minutes before stepping out and reapply after every two hours.
5. NEUTROGENA ULTRA SHEER DRY-TOUCH SUNSCREEN BROAD SPECTRUM SPF 100+
There are many variants in Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer range and this Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum with SPF 100+ is quite popular with its helioplex technology that provides UVA and UVB protection. Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 10%, Oxybenzone 6% are the active ingredients in this product. It’s a lightweight, non-greasy formula, apt for oily and acne-prone skin because it won’t clog pores.
6. COPPERTONE SPORT SPF 50 LOTION SUNSCREEN
If you are an adventurous person who loves sun, beach, and sand, then this sweat-proof sunscreen is probably the best sunscreen in the market. It goes on dry on the skin and it’s a waterproof formula, so you can probably spend a large chunk of the day in the water without getting any sunburn. It doesn’t make skin greasy and does not cause any breakouts either. Coppertone Sport Lotion Sunscreen is available in SPF 15, 30, and 50 variants.
7. PIXI SUN MIST
Can the brand that makes Pixi Glow Tonic (the magic potion with 5% glycolic acid that clears up congestion and dull texture), go wrong with a sunscreen? Absolutely not! Pixi by Petra Sun Mist is a sheer sunscreen formula that comes out in a mist form and provides SPF 30 protection and protects skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Since experts recommend to reapply sunscreen every two hours, this is an absolutely easy and effortless way to protect your skin throughout the day – just spritz on after quite a few hours. The ingredients list has a lot of skin-friendly ingredients like chamomile extract, bamboo extract, and aloe vera.
8. BANANA BOAT ULTRAMIST SPORT PERFORMANCE SUNSCREEN SPF 100
Banana Boat probably makes sunscreen for all age groups and across all SPF categories. The sunscreen in this product comes in a lightweight mist form and provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It’s a water-resistant formula with SPF 100 that blocks up to 99% of sun rays and is one of the few sunscreens that is recommended by Skin Cancer Foundation.
9. AVEENO PROTECT + HYDRATE LOTION SUNSCREEN BROAD SPECTRUM SPF 70
If you get a broad-spectrum sunscreen in a good moisturizing lotion, would you say no to that? No, right? There’s a whole lot of goodness in this product – it has oats to soothe and calm down skin. It’s also oil free and non comedogenic, so ideal for all skin types. UVA and UVB sun protection is assured in this sunscreen lotion.
10. CLARINS SUNSCREEN FOR FACE WRINKLE CONTROL CREAM SPF 50+
When a skincare brand like Clarins decides to make a sunscreen, rest assured that it would take care of a few other skin woes in the same pack. Ditto with this Clarins sunscreen which is also an anti-ageing cream that provides UVA and UVB protection and protects the skin from rays that would trigger and accelerate ageing process like wrinkles and age spots in the skin.
11. COLORESCIENCE SUNFORGETTABLE BRUSH ON SUNSCREEN
Here’s a sunscreen in a unique powder formula that provides UVA/UVA protection with PA++++ in one swipe. It’s a mineral formula that’s also water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Since it’s a tinted powder formula, four shades are available to match a variety of skin tones – Fair, Medium, Tan, and Deep.
12. ELTAMD UV CLEAR BROAD-SPECTRUM SPF 46 FACIAL SUNSCREEN
This one is specifically formulated for those who suffer from acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmented issues. This is an oil-free product that is apt for sensitive skin because it does not clog pores or cause breakouts on skin. There are a whole lot of good ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and lactic acid which improve skin tone and texture a lot. The main ingredient is zinc oxide which provides UVA and UVB protection.
WHY DO WOMEN NEED SUNSCREENS?
There’s a lot of scientific evidence to support the claim that sunscreens can prevent the harmful UV rays of sun which can cause premature ageing, age spots, hyperpigmentation, sunburns, wrinkles, fine lines, and even skin cancer by damaging DNA in skin cells. People of all ages, race, color, and region need sunscreen to protect themselves from UV rays. Even children who spend a lot of time outdoors should slather on sunscreen before stepping outside. Some people skip sunscreen on wintery or snowy days, but you would be surprised to know that snow and water can reflect sun ray’s and cause more harm without sunscreen protection. Another interesting fact that we often ignore is that a good sunscreen can protect our skin from light emitted from our phones and computers, so you should practically wear sunscreen even inside your home!
HOW TO GET MOST OUT OF YOUR SUNSCREEN
- Apply sunscreen at least 15 to 20 minutes before stepping out into the sun.
- Apply sunscreen every two hours.
- Pick sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium oxide rather than chemical sunscreens that would absorb and cause a chemical reaction in your skin.
- Spending long hours under the sun will accelerate the ageing process and cause skin damage and that’s why wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
- Avoid going in direct sun from 10 am to 2 pm when sun is the harshest.
- In addition to using a sunscreen or sun block, protect your skin further by wearing protective clothing, hat, and sunglasses when you are out in the sun for long hours.