Happy Friday! Let's talk about sunscreen and sun exposure. I want to share some of my favorite Asian sunscreens with you, but before getting into product recommendations I'd like to address why we should be mindful about sun exposure. To my fellow beauty junkies this maybe old information, but you wouldn't believe how many of my fellow Scandi beauties don't know this stuff. Because we live here far from the equator and see the Sun so briefly you wouldn't even call this season a Summer - we tend to gloss over sun care. To my boyfriend's request, I try to keep this short and sweet.
Sun exposure (UVA and UVB rays) are the no 1 cause to premature ageing. And this is a fact, as UV rays are classified as a carcinogen to our skin - just like tobacco. Ultraviolet rays (UV) is electromagnetic radiation from the Sun, which is only partly absorbed by the ozone layer. UVA rays can penetrate clouds and glass as well. Rain or shine, Summer or Winter, indoors or outdoors - we're exposed to both of them. We need sun care every single day, and I repeat: every. single. day.
Causes and damages in a nutshell
Most known subtypes of UV radiation to the subject are UVA and UVB. Long wave UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin dermis (thickest, bottom layer) and play a major part in collagen and elastin damages, which leads to wrinkling aka. photoageing. Medium wave UVA only penetrate the epidermal (outermost) layer of the skin causing reddening, burning and pigmentation changes. I find freckles adorable, but unfortunately freckles, tanning and sun spots are 'injuries' to the skin DNA, as the skin darkens to prevent further injuries. Mutations in the skin DNA may lead to cancer. Simplifying: UVA is A for ageing and UVB is B for burning. Both ultimately damage your skin.
- Avoid the peak sun hours when the sunshine is "strongest". Check out the UV index where you live, but it's usually around morning-noon.
- Wear protective clothing, long sleeves and hats
- Never, ever, use UV tanning beads. If tan is your jam, take it from a bottle!
- Look into supplements that protect your skin health, including: Vitamin D, Vitamin C, healthy fats and vegan Astaxanthin (carotenoid and potent antioxidant)
- Wear sunscreen. Rain or shine, dead of Winter or Summer, wear sunscreen.
Is sunscreen Dangerous?
I'd like to acknowledge I know there are mixed views about the safety of sunscreen ingredients: do they increase or decrease your chances to get cancer, will the chemicals cross the skin, cause allergies and so on and so fort. I agree you should be mindful of the ingredients and what you put on your skin, but also be responsible about sun exposure. Call me vain, but personally I'm in the sunscreen bandwagon. Not any sunscreen, but trustworthy ingredients and application. Let's talk about those next.
Choose your type of sunscreen
There are 2 main types of sunscreen: 'physical' and 'chemical', which are little misleading names as they're all chemicals in the end, but for clarity let's stick with the most common division. I also talk about filters, the active ingredients in sunscreen that block either UVA, UVB or both. You want a filter that has a broad spectrum UVA and UVB care and which is photostable, meaning it won't degrade when exposed to light. Often sunscreens combine these filters for the best protection.
Physical sunscreen protect your skin by blocking or deflecting the UV rays. They're usually thick, opaque and creamy formulas that leave a white cast on the skin and cause flashback in photographs. These filters are Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide. The former has a good UVB but not UVA block while the latter has a full spectrum care. If you break out from mineral make up, you may want to avoid Titanium dioxide and stick with Zinc instead, but generally they're both safe for sensitive skin and stable.
Chemical sunscreens absorb or scatter the sun's rays, but mostly absorb. They should be applied ~20 minutes before you're being exposed to the Sun. Usually the textures of these sunscreens are very nice, runny and light, easily absorbed into the skin. Many Asian sunscreens are chemical and they apply nicely under make up. There are plenty of filters and many offer a broader spectrum care than physical sunscreens do, but some (such as avobenzone) are not photostable. They more commonly cause irritation and break outs to sensitive skins.
SPF and PA ratings
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and only applies to UVB rays. The number after SPF indicates how many times longer you can stay in the sun without burning (let's say SPF15 let's you stay 15 times longer) You can't double the protection factor by wearing two lower factors - two SPF15 creams won't protect you 30 times longer, you need a higher factor. Confusingly, you want to your sunscreen to also have a PA rating for UVA rays, which are marked with a +. The more plus symbols the more protection from the sun. I recommend at least SPF30 PA+++.
Use a designated sunscreen. Tinted moisturizers, powders or day creams with SPF usually won't cut it as you're not applying enough. Day creams with SPF is usually just an expensive version of a sunscreen: go for a great cream for your skin type and a separate sunscreen you care to apply. Apply to your whole face, neck and chest area as your last skincare step. You want sunscreen to be the outmost "barrier". The amount depends on your body size, but use liberally. Often at least "nickel size" is recommended - I use about 1/2 teaspoon or more. You also want to reapply during the day. The recommendation is "at least every few hours" if you're outdoors, in water or by a window, but if you're wearing make up or have a life - reapplying can be a chore. Do your best, reapply as often as you can. I aim to reapply at least once a day and stay out of the sun. Here are more application tips I find useful.
You want a stable, broad spectrum sunscreen for UVA and UVB that has both high SPF and PA rating. Choosing a filter is a personal preference which texture you like or is your skin sensitive to particular ingredient. If you're worried about the safety of sunscreens or sensitive: go for physical. If you hate the heavy feeling: go for chemical. Apply liberally as your last skincare step and reapply as you can. I promise, I tried to keep it short and sweet!
Do you wear sunscreen every day? Which sunscreens do you prefer?