Although some parts of the world (like here in Mumbai) have already entered the monsoon months, the sun continues to come up every morning bringing with it lasting benefits and distresses, no matter what season we’re in.

The global lifestyle revolution of the last century has changed the way in which the suns rays reach us, making sunscreen necessary on almost every time we’re in the sun.

You can ditch the sunscreen in the morning between 8am-10am (for up to 5mins only) 2-3 times a week to take in your required dose of vitamin D. This vitamin is produced in our body when it comes in contact with sunlight, and it is integral for maintaining the health of your bones and teeth (so pretty important).

Why should we wear sunscreen?

Sunscreen forms a protective outer layer on your skin that absorbs the suns harmful rays and prevents us (mostly) from sun damage.  Below are some of the harmful effects of the sun:

  • Wrinkles,
  • Age spots,
  • Hyperpigmentation,
  • Freckles,
  • Rough texture,
  • White spots,
  • Yellowing of the skin,
  • Discolored areas of the skin,
  • Bruises and tears more easily,
  • Takes longer to heal,
  • Leading cause of skin cancer.

Sunscreen terminology simplified

UVA rays (ultra violet A) travel deeper through your skin (dermis) and cause wrinkles, aging and spots; these rays can even pass though windows. PA (protection grade) specifies protection from UVA rays, the more plus sign after ‘P’ the more protection from UVA rays (for instance, PA +++).

A sunscreen containing SPF (sun protection factor) protects you from UVB rays (ultra violet B), which can burn the top layer of your skin (epidermis). The number in front of SPF indicated the number of minutes into ten, after which you should reapply it. For instant SPF 20 is 20×10 = 200 minutes, so reapply your sunscreen after being in the sun for about 2 hours and 30 minutes presuming you’re going to stay in the sun.

Below are some helpful time indications:

SPF 15: 150 min (2hrs 30mins)

SPF 20: 200min (3hrs 20min)

SPF 30: 300 minutes (5hrs)

SPF 40: 400 minutes (6hrs 40 min)

SPF 50: 500 min (8hrs 20 min)

The depleting ozone layer above the atmosphere protects us from the most dangerous rays – UVC rays (ultra violet C).

‘Oxybenzone’ and ‘retinyl palmitate’ are other commonly found chemicals in sunscreens but have raised a few questions as to their safety, so if you have sensitive skin, try and avoid these chemicals as far as possible. Instead, try out a sunscreen for babies as they use fewer chemicals and fragrances.

To summaries, when buying a sunscreen, make sure that it contains a minimum SPF of 30 and that it mentions the term ‘Broad-spectrum’ as this means that it provides protection against UVA and UVB rays.

Natural sun protection

There are some naturally occurring substances that also contain SPF, for instance:

  • Almond Oil: SPF 5
  • Coconut Oil: SPF 4-6
  • Red Raspberry Seed Oil: SPF 25-50
  • Carrot Seed Oil:  SPF 35-40
  • Shea Butter: SPF 4-6

Phytochemicals (biologically active compounds found in plants), can make your skin resistant to sun damage, however this cannot be substituted for sunscreen just yet.  Hopefully sometime in the future we will be able to eat our sunscreen and not have to apply an icky sunscreen.

Keep a tub of aloe Vera handy, as this is the best way to sooth burns naturally. You can also freeze some aloe Vera in an ice tray and then wrap these cubes in a hand-towel to soothe burnt skin.

Sunscreen facts and tips

Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before stepping out, as this is how long it takes to have any effect in the sun.

You should be using about one-shot glass full of sunblock for your body and a teaspoon for your face to be sufficiently protected.  

Try staying indoors between 10am and 4pm, as that’s when the suns rays are the strongest.

If you have sensitive skin buy a sunscreen meant for babies, as it contains fewer unnecessary chemicals and fragrances.

Don’t only rely on the SPF contained in your cosmetics; sunscreen needs to be a thick layer, which is not usually achievable with makeup.

In relation to the point above, if you’re layering SPFs, the SPF from your lotion and from your BB cream don’t add together. Only the highest SPF will count, so don’t be mistaken when the time comes to reapply your sunscreen.

Sunscreen does not prevent you from getting darker.

Apply sunscreen if you’re going out in the daytime only, and should be worn year-round.

Buy a fresh sunscreen every year as they lose their strength with time.  

Use a water resistant sunscreen if you think you might perspire in the sun; there is no point of loading yourself with sunscreen for it to be washed off by sweat.

Be careful while applying sunscreen around you eyes however; do not neglect to do so, as the skin around your eyes needs extra protection.

Make sure to wear your sunscreen before putting on your clothes.

Ask your dermatologist to recommend you a sunscreen, that way your other skin issues are also taken care of, or not further aggravated.

Watch out for reflective surfaces like water, snow and sand as they reflect 85% of the suns rays.

If you wish to gain further protection, ask your doctor to recommend you a sun protection supplement.

When using spray sunscreens, don’t directly apply the spray to your face, spray some in your hands and then apply to the face.

Sunscreen for different skin types

Children and people with sensitive skin: alcohol and chemicals such as PABA and oxybenzone should be avoided. Choose one that contains Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as it’s the safest and offers a good amount of protection.

Acne prone skin: Try using sunscreens that come in a gel formula as they are suppose to cause less breakouts.

Dry skin: choose moisturizing sunscreens that is labeled as a cream, lotion, or ointment.

Skin colour: People with fair skin have a higher risk or sun burn as their skin contains less melanin (substance that makes skin dark).  They get burnt within 10 minutes of being in the sun; the same is 15 minutes and 20 minutes for olive and dark skinned people respectively. Knowing this can help you whilst choosing a sunscreen.

Sun protection other than sunscreen

Wear UV protection sunglasses and wear clothing that covers your shoulders and arms.

A broad rimmed hat will protect your scalp as you can’t apply sunscreen there and this also provides further protection to your face and neck.

Cosmetics and contact lenses can also contain UV protection.

Use an umbrella or try staying in the shade as much as possible.

Eating foods that contain antioxidants – fruits vegies and green tea to boost your level of sun protection

Darker/thicker clothes have more sun protection, but don’t do this at the risk of overheating.

References:

www.WebMD.com – http://www.prevention.com/ – www.allure.com – http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/ozone-depletion/ – http://www.organicauthority.com/22-best-natural-sunscreens-2016 – https://wellnessmama.com/2558/homemade-sunscreen/ – http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/choosing

Author: Roxanne T

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