Myths and misconceptions about sunscreen are common and widespread even today. The importance of sunscreen is only recently being highlighted in the skincare community however many people remain misinformed. You shouldn’t let this steer you away from protecting you and your skin. Asking yourself the question ‘should I be wearing sunscreen?’ is a great place to start and is already putting you on the right track. However, finding the best sunscreen for you can be difficult, especially if you are someone of a darker skin tone.
Why is it important to use sunscreen?
Sunscreen, arguably, is one of the most essential products you need in a skincare routine. I see too often people with extensively researched and tested routines which is all great and wonderful but then they miss out on SPF. All that hard work that goes into a routine is diminished. Why? Well, the sun emits two types of rays UVA and UVB:
UVA: UVA rays are emitted by the sun all year round. They remain of the same intensity both through winter and summer. Even during rainy and cloudy days, there is evidence from the Skin Cancer Foundation that they still have effects of up to 80%. That’s extremely high and avoiding sunscreen during these days puts you at higher risk for over-exposure and sun-damage. There is also evidence that compared to UVB, UVA rays penetrate far deeper into the skin as they are a smaller molecule, therefore causing significantly more damage.
UVB: UVB rays are still emitted by the sun all year round, however, they vary in intensity. During summer when the temperature increases the intensity of UVB rays increases and vice versa, in winter they decrease.
This is why in summer you should be wearing a higher SPF than you do in winter. Sun rays cause UV damage when you’ve been over-exposed. This is damage that is irreversible no matter how great your skincare routine is. The biggest risks with over-exposure are:
Skin cancer: It has been scientifically shown that 90% of skin cancers are due to sun damage and over-exposure. There are two types of skin cancers, non-melanoma and melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other areas of the body. By putting on SPF every day you are significantly reducing the risk of this and the harm that’s done to your skin.
Signs of ageing: Sun-damage can worsen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles or even cause them to form earlier on in life. 90% of premature ageing is due to over-exposure to the sun. This damage is irreversible so in a skincare routine, all your anti-ageing products go to waste simply by not using sunscreen.
How do I choose the right sunscreen for my face?
Firstly, there are two types of sunscreens physical (mineral sunscreen falls under this category) and chemical. Physical sunscreens work by reflecting UV rays emitted from the sun and typically contain the nano filters titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, these sit on the face acting as a barrier. A nano filter is just the type of nanoparticle that is contained within the sunscreen. However chemical sunscreens instead absorb the UV rays, and typically contain nano filters of oxybenzone, octocrylene, octisalate and avobenzone, these are absorbed into the face. In terms of picking the right sunscreen for your face, each type has positives and negatives.
• No risk of space between sunscreen molecules and skin barrier
• Typically tends to be thinner and clearer in a formula so for those who are of darker skin tone chemical sunscreens won’t leave a white cast.
• Must be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure
• As they are absorbed into the skin, protection lasts for a shorter period so must be reapplied more
• Can tend to irritate those with sensitive skin the higher the SPF gets due to the combination of chemicals used to achieve broad-spectrum protection
• More suited to sensitive skin as particles remain on top of the skin’s surface to create a barrier
• Is naturally a broad spectrum against UVA and UVB
• Less likely to clog pores- more suited to oily skin
• Lasts longer during the day, therefore less reapplication
• Can rub-off easily through sweat, water or rinsing
• If not applied generously can cause gaps between skin and protection where UV rays can infiltrate
• Less suited to those of medium to dark skin tones as it can tend to leave a white cast
What sunscreens do dermatologists recommend?
One brand that stands out when looking for sunscreens is Heliocare. They offer a wide variety of sunscreens each suitable for different skin types and tones. They even have SPF makeup products for when you touch up your foundation or powder during the day. It makes for an easier way to make sure you’re reapplying sunscreen throughout the day and keeping your skin protected.
One product that stood out to me was the Fluid Cream SPF 50+. This is a clear gel formula that is suitable for all skin types and tones, with both UVA and UVB protection. It leaves a semi-matte finish which is especially great for those who wear make-up to create a solid base. It contains two powerful and thoroughly researched technologies: Fernblock FC and BioShield System.
1. Fernblock FC
This is a natural antioxidant from the plant Polypodium leucotomos. It protects your skin from free-radical damage and has been extensively researched for 20 years. Not only that, it has 80 clinical studies to support its effects.
2. BioShield System
Provides advanced biological protection against infrared radiation and high energy visible light. It helps neutralize the action of these two aggressors by absorbing them within the skin.
It also contains Vitamin C and E which provides another barrier for protection against free radical damage. Also, Vitamin C boosts collagen production in the skin. Collagen is the main protein found in the skin and is what keeps elasticity. Meaning this product also helps with the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time.
Another product that stands out in the sunscreen market is the PCA Skin Protecting Hydrator Broad Spectrum SPF 30. This is a non-oily and transparent formula that keeps skin hydrated whilst offering advanced protection. It contains:
- Octinoxate – Protects against UVB rays.
- Zinc Oxide – Creates a protective barrier on the skin to provide broad-spectrum protection by reflecting UV rays.
- Panthenol – Is a humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the atmosphere and retains it within the skin to keep the epidermal layer hydrated.
- Silybin – A powerful antioxidant that protects against environmental aggressors such as, oxidative stress and free radical damage.
Can I use SPF 50 every day?
Using SPF 50 every day, may not be necessary however, is not something that will cause negative effects to your skin, it’s just offering better protection. Wearing sunscreen every day is essential, however, as I’ve mentioned, for satisfactory protection, you should at least be minimum wearing an SPF 30. UVB rays do vary in intensity and are highest in summer, so during these climates, you really should be wearing SPF 50 for adequate sun protection. As well as avoiding the sun where you can, wearing protective clothing and remembering to reapply sunscreen. This all depends on where and what type of climate you live in however for every day in the UK, SPF 30 is the aim. Although this does vary for people of different skin tones too. Those who are fairer or paler, have freckles and typically of lighter hair colours like blonde or ginger, are more prone to sun damage than someone of a darker skin tone or hair colour. Therefore, people in this demographic should be using an SPF 50 sunscreen every day.
Can I mix sunscreen with moisturiser?
Now there is quite a lot of debate about this in the skincare community. Many people only apply sunscreen in the morning as the product is sufficient hydration, however, those with dryer skin usually use both a moisturiser and sunscreen. Mixing the two products has become common but I would advise against this. Your moisturiser may contain ingredients that can dilute some of those active chemicals within your sunscreen, reducing the protection you get. Although it may seem like a speedy life hack, it’s better to take things slow and to let each product you use absorb into the skin before applying the next. Also, there is the risk of not using enough sunscreen if you do this common technique. The SPF stated on the product is only achieved when using a certain amount; a guide I like to use is two fingers worth. And when applying these products, sunscreen always comes after moisturiser for the same reason, applying moisturiser on top of sunscreen could dilute and reduce the protection you have from the sun.
What is the best face sunscreen for acne-prone skin?
With acne-prone skin, the skin tends to be more on the oilier side and is also more inflamed and sensitive. Therefore, when looking for sunscreen you want something that isn’t greasy or shiny as this could potentially clog pores, or that it has too many active combinations that could give your skin a reaction. A product I would recommend is the iS Clinical Extreme Protect SPF 30. This unique sunscreen provides multi broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It can also hydrate and protect skin collagen from sun damage. Some key ingredients are:
1. Extremozyme technology
This ingredient works similar to bubble wrap and is clinically proven to protect fragile proteins and DNA components within the skin. It can help with signs of ageing and reduces water loss from the skin.
2. Zinc Oxide
Protects the skin against UV damage by physically reflecting UV rays from the skin’s surface.
3. Aloe (Barbadensis) Leaf Juice
This is a powerful antioxidant that not only protects against free radical damage but works to promote collagen synthesis to help with signs of ageing. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties so for those with acne-prone skin this is a perfect healing ingredient.
Can sunscreen make my skin darker?
When people argue against using sunscreen this tends to be a fact that they throw out there. However, this is all myth. The sunscreen itself will not make your skin darker. However, if you are using a sunscreen that is not suited for your face, you may risk irritation or inflammation. That could lead to hyperpigmentation which does lead to your skin becoming darker. Also, if you are not applying your product properly or your sunscreen mixes weirdly with powder make-up, your skin may be exposed to the sun. That could also make the skin appear darker. However, these problems can be solved by finding a sunscreen with good ingredients and research behind it to decrease the risk of your skin having a reaction and making sure you apply sunscreen separately to other products to prevent exposed areas of the face.
How long does sunscreen last?
This depends on whether you are using a chemical or physical sunscreen. Since physical sunscreens are not absorbed into the face, they create a barrier on the surface, they tend to not last as long as they are easier to rub off through sweat or on clothes etc… Therefore, you should be reapplying more often, roughly about every 1 and a half to 2 hours. However, if you’re on holiday for example and you go in the water, once you come out you should be reapplying as physical sunscreens aren’t waterproof. A chemical sunscreen, as it is absorbed into the skin lasts roughly 2-2.5 hours. These values come from when the SPF factor of the sunscreen is most effective, that’s why we need to reapply. However, if you’re in a warm climate and exposed to the sun all day, reapplying more often is advised.
Overall sunscreen is completely essential in a skincare routine, and all of us from all climates must be using it daily. Protecting ourselves and our skin from the irreversible effects of sun damage will only enhance the good benefits of the rest of your skincare routine. Even if you aren’t currently using skincare, sunscreen should be the most important product you purchase first.
Author: Ema Kanlic