There has been a growing awareness and appreciation for the importance of sun protection in the skincare community. Sunlight is the number one source of UV radiation which can lead to skin cancer and early signs of ageing. There are many ways to avoid UV exposure, like wearing sun-protective clothing (such as hats and sunglasses) and generally avoiding the sun when you can. However, one of the best protective measures is adding SPF to your daily routine.
Sunscreen has long been hailed by dermatologists as the number one skincare product that everyone needs. Here is your Lazy Girl Crash Course to SPF; we’ll cover everything from what SPF means, to different types of sun protection, to finding the best products for you.
What does SPF mean?
There are 2 different types of UV rays that affect the skin: UVA and UVB rays. Both UVA and UVB rays cause skin cancer. UVB rays damage the skin’s upper surface and are the main cause of sunburn. UVA rays penetrate deeper and primarily cause signs of skin ageing, pigmentation and wrinkles.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This is a scientific measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays. If your sunscreen says it has SPF 30, it means that it will protect your skin 30x longer than it takes your skin to burn without SPF. For example, if you naturally burn after 10 minutes in the sun without protection, an SPF 30 sunscreen will protect you for 300 minutes.
Opt for Broad-Spectrum SPF
To best protect your skin, you need protection against both UVB and UVA rays. While all SPF products cover UVB rays, broad-spectrum SPF protects against both UVB and UVA rays. To safeguard your skin, opt for labels that say broad-spectrum protection.
Some labels might have one or more + signs next to the SPF number. That’s a system used in Asian countries to indicate a product’s UVA protection factor. The more + signs you see, the better the product’s protection against UVA rays.
Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen
SPF works by blocking out the sun’s harmful rays in two different ways: a physical coating on the skin that reflects the rays (physical sunscreen), or by absorbing the UV rays and converting them into another type of energy (chemical sunscreen).
Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide. These work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter UV rays away from the skin. These sunscreens are also referred to as mineral or natural sunscreens.
Physical sunscreen might be easier on the skin as they are less irritating than chemical ones. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to look for formulations that contain physical UV blockers. They are also less likely to clog the pores as they sit on top of the skin, rather than getting absorbed. However, they tend to feel heavier and can leave a film on the skin, and they rub and/or sweat off easily.
Chemical sunscreens contain organic carbon-based compounds (such as oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone) that create chemical reactions to absorb UV rays and release them from the skin. Whereas physical sunscreens block rays at the surface of the skin, chemical sunscreens absorb them. These sunscreens tend to be thinner and can spread more easily on the skin, making them more wearable for daily use. This formula also allows for other skincare ingredients to be added easily so that your skin can benefit from other ingredients such as peptides and enzymes. However, they do pose a higher risk of irritation.
Which to use?
So which is best? Most dermatologists recommend using both physical and chemical sunscreens that are compatible with your skin type so that you get inside and outer protection. If your skin tolerates both forms, use a combo sunscreen to get the best of both worlds.
Ultimately, the best sunscreen to use is the one that you enjoy wearing a generous coat of and is compatible with your skin type. Wear whatever kind of sunscreen that feels good and will get you to wear sunscreen daily.
How much do you need to apply?
For your neck and face, it’s recommended to use the two-finger rule (refer to the image below). You should apply about two finger lengths’ worth of sunscreen to fully protect your skin against harmful rays. It should be applied every morning and reapplied every 2 hours or so – no matter the SPF, it should always be reapplied.
Is SPF necessary Every Day?
Yes yes yes yes yes. Even in winter and even when you’re indoors most of the day. If the sun is out, you are exposed to UV rays. Clouds don’t block them, and neither do windows. While UVB rays can’t penetrate glass, UVA can. This means while you’re indoors or driving, you’re still at risk of the damaging effects of UVA which include early signs of ageing and pigmentation. Wear your SPF people!
This is a super hydrating water-proof formula that offers both UVA and UVB protection. The texture is light and spreads easily, leaving no marks or white cast on the face. It includes ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid to offer full hydration. This product also contains alcohol, so sensitive skins should patch test before use.
This unique facial mist offers broad-spectrum protection and is suitable for all skin types as it is formulated as both a physical and chemical sunscreen. This is a great product to have when re-applying SPF over makeup (and it can be used under makeup too!). This product offers high-level sun protection in the form of a refreshing thermal water mist, leaving the skin hydrated and mattified.
This lightweight gel is recommended for normal, combination and oily skin. This product offers both UVA and UVB protection and contains vitamin C and ferulic acid to offer antioxidant benefits too.
This is a 100% physical sunscreen that is suited for all skin types, especially for oily, sensitive and acne-prone skin. This broad-spectrum SPF contains active ingredients such as mugwort, niacinamide, green tea and squalane. This is a non-comedogenic formula, making it great for daily use under a face mask as it is not likely to block pores and cause breakouts!
This broad-spectrum SPF stick is ideal for on-the-go touch-ups when you’re out and about. It glides on easily without any greasiness or white cast. With hyaluronic acid as its hero ingredient, this SPF is super hydrating and lightweight.