There are so many varieties of sunscreen that it’s a big problem to choose the right one, especially if you have sensitive or intolerant skin and if you don’t really know what types of sunscreens are available. Here are some things you should take into consideration as well as some tips and information about the wonderful world of sunscreens.
Sun protection factor (SPF)
The first thing you should know is that you’re not necessarily 100% protected just because you’re wearing sunscreen. Products with an SPF of 30 or over will protect you from around 97% of the harmful rays. So the best way is to expose yourself with moderation, don’t count only on your sunscreen, even if it has an SPF of 90!
To be sure of an efficient protection, choose a wide- spectrum cream which offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Both of these rays are harmful to the skin and can cause skin cancer but it’s UVA rays which cause skin aging whereas UVB rays give you sunburn.
If you want to know what the SPF means, it’s quite simple: the higher the SPF, the less chance you’ll get sunburned.
Applying the cream
It’s also really important to re-apply the cream at least every two hours and that’s when you’re not perspiring, swimming or towelling. In any of those cases, re-apply your cream (so in fact that means more often than every two hours!).
Also, apply it at least 30 minutes before sun exposure.
And don’t be stingy with it! You have to apply a GENEROUS layer for it to be effective. If not the SPF will be useless and you won’t get proper protection.
Physical or chemical?
Some people think wrongly that they’ve been sunburned when in fact they’ve had a reaction to their sunscreen.
There are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical
If you tend to react to certain products, go for physical sunscreens which don’t contain chemical sun filters.
How to tell if it’s a physical or chemical sunscreen?
The two most common ingredients fund in physical sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (there are others but those are the two main ones); these are mineral filters. If the sunscreen you have chosen includes these ingredients, you have a good product which is kind to sensitive skin (and the environment, chemical sunscreens pollute more). Suggestions: Neutrogena Pure Screen, and the Avène range.
Here are some examples of chemical sun filters frequently used in the making of sunscreens. When seeing them in the list of ingredients, you’ll know that it is a chemical product: Homostalate, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Octocrylene, Octisalate, etc. One of the best and most frequently-found chemical filters is Mexoryl XL.
On the other hand, chemical sunscreens have their advantages. They’re transparent (don’t leave a white film as opposed to physical versions). Secondly, they’re more wide-spectrum and thirdly, they’re more stable and don’t deteriorate with time.
For people who are allergic to the sun, chemical filters are often the better choice, particularly if they contain Mexoryl XL.
You can’t have your cake and eat it… ;o).
If you’re looking for a compromise, some sunscreens contain both; they each have their advantages.
Having said that, you won’t necessarily have a reaction to a chemical product. Some people are more sensitive than others and they should take greater care when choosing products.
Everyone else should wear a wide-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (re-applied frequently), expose yourself with moderation, wear adequate clothing, good sunglasses, a hat or a cap, and avoid the hours of 12h to 15h when the UV index is highest…
Have a great summer!