It may sustain all life on earth, but the sun is often no friend to your skin. Overexposure to the sun has long been linked with a wide variety of catastrophic health implications. It can also take a major toll on the physical appearance of your skin, accelerating the aging process and resulting in the development of wrinkles, dark spots and other pigmentation issues, skin laxity, and congestion (blackheads).
All dermatologists have their own slightly different take on protection from the sun. How much sunscreen to use on the face, how often to reapply sunscreen, the effectiveness of mineral powder sunscreen, the benefits of using a moisturizer with SPF and so on – all topics that are somewhat open to interpretation.
But when it comes to the fundamental basics of staying safe in the sun, there are several points all experts across the board are in agreement on.
There’s no single golden rule for staying safe in the sun – it’s a case of modifying your everyday habits and your lifestyle to incorporate a series of safe sun practices every day of the year, no matter the season or weather.
The most important and effective examples of which are as follows:
Cover Up Where Possible
One of the best barriers you have from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is your clothing. Just as long as a garment is able to adequately block or filter the sun’s rays, it can be more effective and consistent than any type of sunscreen. Some of the newer fabrics on the market combine breathability with outstanding UV protection, enabling you to keep cool while covering up. Cover up with a hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, scarf, umbrella, and/or sun visor.
When selecting garments with sun protection in mind, look for the manufacturer’s UPF declaration. This is the ultraviolet protection factor of the garment, indicating the fraction of the UV rays the fabric allows through. This means that where a piece of clothing is rated as UPF 50, only a fiftieth (or 2%) of the UV radiation actually penetrates.
Avoid the Sun’s Peak Hours
Keeping to the shade where possible throughout the day is also advisable, particularly during the sun’s peak hours. Depending on the location and time of year, this could be anytime between 10.00 AM and 4.00 PM, during which the sun is at its most intense.
During these times, it is better to stick to the shade as much as possible. But it is important to remember that while shade can offer effective protection from the sun, it is not a flawless UV filter. Some of the sun’s harmful rays will still reach your skin, emphasizing the importance of using an appropriate sunscreen.
Understand How Sunscreen Works
In order to ensure you are using your preferred sunscreen correctly, you need to know how it works.
What does SPF stand for?
SPF stands for sun protection factor, which indicates how long it would take for the sun’s UVB rays to damage your skin compared to if you were wearing no sunscreen at all. For example, when wearing a product with an SPF 30, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you had not applied sunscreen.
How much SPF for face and body?
It depends entirely on the strength of the sun, and how long you intend to spend exposed to it. However, most dermatologists recommend applying an SPF of at least 30 to the face, particularly when the sun is at its strongest.
How often to reapply sunscreen?
Again, it depends on the type of sunscreen you use and its formulation. As a general rule of thumb, conventional sunscreen should be reapplied once every 2 hours or so, and after swimming/bathing if there’s a chance it may have been compromised.
Is mineral sunscreen the same as conventional sunscreen?
Most types of powder sunscreen are designed to be applied on top of conventional sunscreen – not as an alternative. Mineral powder sunscreen can be great for boosting the effectiveness of regular sunscreen, but is not usually recommended for use as a primary sun protection product.
What is broad-spectrum sunscreen?
This indicates a product that has been designed to provide extensive protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Products that lack the ingredients to offer broad-spectrum protection may therefore not provide full protection from the sun.
Is sunscreen waterproof?
No, but it can be water-resistant. What this means is that sunscreen can withstand exposure to water for a specific period of time – often up to around 90 minutes – after which its effectiveness may be severely compromised.
Can I use sunscreen with sensitive skin?
Many sunscreens are engineered to be as kind as possible to sensitive skin, and suitable for most skin types. People with dry skin could also benefit from the best moisturizer with SPF, combining the benefits of sun protection with lasting hydration.
What are some high-rated sunscreen products to consider buying?
Sunforgettable EnviroScreen is a premium mineral powder with an SPF rating of 50, packed with antioxidants and patented ingredients to provide effective protection against free radicals. It also contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin, while providing broad-spectrum protection from harmful radiation. Suitable for all skin tones, Sunforgettable EnviroScreen can be worn alone or with make-up.
Luxurious yet non-greasy sunscreen, ZO Sunscreen + Primer dries in seconds to leave a matte finish and provides effective UVA and UVB protection with an SPF rating of 30. It contains natural melanin to safeguard the skin from accelerated ageing, and can be worn alone or under makeup for an even longer-lasting effect. The brush can be easily removed, so you can wash it to keep it clear of any bacteria.
Practically weightless for a comfortable and airy feel, Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense features advanced translucent color spheres for enhanced protection against UVA and UVB radiation. It dries to a sublime sheer finish in no time and is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, making it great for days at the beach or anywhere else.
Always Be Prepared
This means ensuring not only that you have high-quality sunscreen at your disposal, but also that it is within easy reach at all times. The simpler you make it for yourself (and your family) to stay safe in the sun, the more likely you are to do just that.
Leave your sunscreen in plain sight to stay top of mind. Keep it with other daily items, like your toothbrush or facial cleanser.
Irrespective of whether you are bathing in the direct sun or simply out and about with friends, it is still essential to reapply sunscreen on a regular basis. Travel-sized bottles can be great for portability, or you can simply transfer some sunscreen to a small empty container to ensure you have it with you on the go.
Always check for expiry dates to make sure you’re not using expired, ineffective sunscreen.
Apply in Advance
According to dermatologists, one of the biggest mistakes many well-meaning individuals make is waiting until they’re already in the sun to apply sunscreen. If you check the label on most sun protection products, you will find that they are only able to protect skin from the sun around 20-30 minutes after being applied.
Up until this point, they’re capable of offering rudimentary protection at best. In addition, applying in advance means having all the time you need to make sure that all-important base layer is properly applied, and that no gaps are left.
Once at the beach, the park or anywhere else, the tendency is to rush sunscreen application, which is never a good idea. Always apply your sunscreen to areas that are more difficult to reach like your back and the back of your shoulders. Ask for help to apply. Or random tip—use the back of a long wooden spoon.
Set a Timer
Missing the two-hour sunscreen reapplication ‘deadline’ can be hazardous to your skin’s health. Even if you exceed the recommended two-hour reapplication window by half an hour or so, you could still do significant damage to your skin in the process.
This is why dermatologists advise taking sensible precautions, and setting a timer. This way, you can ensure you are alerted to the exact moment you need to apply another layer of sunscreen, and avoid the risk of forgetting about it entirely.
Powder Your Nose
Mineral powder sunscreen is one of the most popular sun protection products of the moment, and can also be hugely effective. Contrary to popular belief, powder sunscreen is not designed to take the place of your standard base layer of conventional sunscreen.
Instead, it’s just the kind of thing that can be fantastic for an occasional touch-up throughout the day. Mineral sunscreen doubles as high-quality powder makeup and can be applied quickly and easily without ruining your look. Your can keep product in your purse or car console to make it easy to re-apply. Most mineral powder sunscreens come in a compact container, so it’s easy to travel with.
Where mineral powder sunscreen has a good SPF, it can make a major contribution to your skin’s overall protection from the sun.
Wear a Hat
Wearing a suitable hat when out and about in the sun is important for two reasons. First of all, it will lessen the likelihood of the sun’s heat resulting in an unfortunate bout of heat stroke. Keeping your head cool when the sun is at its strongest is essential, as allowing your body’s core temperature to increase too much can be dangerous.
Secondly, it’s surprising how many people forget to provide any UV protection whatsoever for their scalp. The scalp can be just as sensitive to the sun’s rays as any other part of the body, and must therefore be protected accordingly.
Use Vitamin C for Your Face Skincare Products
Research suggests that some of the better Vitamin C serums on the market can be fantastic for protecting the skin from the damaging effects of the sun. Not to such an extent as to render sunscreen any less useful, but great as an additional protective measure.
A good Vitamin C serum can effectively brighten the skin and fight back against pigmentation issues. It can also help prevent such issues from occurring in the first place, when layered onto the skin underneath a base layer of quality sunscreen. Vitamin c is a powerful antioxidant that will tackle free radical damage from the harmful UV rays.
Adequate Vitamin C intake is also essential, to help support your body’s key processes, and its ability to repair itself naturally.
Watch for Windows
Last up, it’s assumed that glass windows block all of the sun’s harmful radiation with flawless efficiency. But while UVB rays can be filtered well by glass, the same cannot be said for UVA.
This, therefore, means that when sitting in the direct sun either indoors or in your car, your skin could be susceptible to damage from UVA rays. Some windows are designed to block UVA rays, but most conventional glass panels are not. We are still susceptible to UV damage indoors at home, at work, and in the vehicle. Sunscreen should be applied daily even if you’re not outside.
Hence, it’s best not to take the protective properties of windows for granted, unless you know they are designed to filter the sun’s harmful rays.