Aware that exposure to the sun’s UV rays could be putting you in great danger, you might have made the decision to use a sunscreen. But how do you go about deciding which sunscreen is best for you?
In addition, with the market overflowing with all manner of sunscreens, which factors do you need to take into account before making an education decision?
Know Your Skin Type First
We all have different skin types and knowing how your skin reacts to chemicals is important in choosing the best sunscreen. If your skin is sensitive or suffers from rosacea (the inflamed condition that leads to red patches on the skin and is often confused for acne or sunburn), you should choose sunscreens that only work on the skin surface without penetrating – also known as “physical sunscreens”. Such sunscreens will be made with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Sunscreens made with other chemicals are absorbed into the skin and are therefore irritating for people with sensitive skin.
Consider the Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
The SPF of a sunscreen indicates how a sunscreen protects you from the harmful effects of type B Ultraviolet rays (UVB). If you choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, it means that by applying it effectively, you could be exposed to the sun for up to 150 minutes without risking sunburn. In essence, SPF has more to do with how long you can do without reapplication than it does with how well it actually works.
Double SPF Does Not Mean Double Protection
If an SPF of 15 offers you protection for 150 minutes, doesn’t it then follow that a product with an SPF of 30 will offer protection for 300 minutes? Unfortunately, the answer is not that mathematical. In fact jumping from SPF 15 to 30 only offers a marginal improvement in protection. With SPF 15 products, 93% of UBV is filtered while SPF 30 products filter 97% of UVB. So how do you decide whether to go for SFP 15, 30 or more? Price considerations aside, you should only consider purchasing a product with a high SPF if you come from a family with a history of skin cancer. Moreover, products with higher SPF are recommended for people with very fair or sensitive skin. However, SPF 15 is better than no SPF at all.
How About UVA Protection?
The dangers posed by UVB have been known for a long time but recent developments in research have shown that exposure to UVA also increases the risk of developing skin cancer. While the protection offered by a product from UVB can be measured using SPF, there’s no measure as yet for UVA.
To make sure you use a product that offers protection from UVA, pay attention to the ingredients of the product and go for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone and sulisobenzone among others. Physical sunscreens, as mentioned earlier are your best bet.
Think about the kids
Babies and young children have more tender and sensitive skin, meaning you should take great care in choosing sunscreens for them. For most of them, the chemicals found in sunscreens meant for adults will only result in irritation. Look out for child-friendly sunscreens which will ideally be made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – categorized as “physicals”.