In today’s era, skincare is important and having a defined skincare routine is essential for everyone regardless of age and gender. Of course, having a skincare routine without SPF is pointless! Sunscreen is the very basic first step you should take towards taking care of your skin.
Why Use Sunscreen?
You might think to yourself, why sunscreen? (well, we’ve got you covered)
Your face is prime real estate when it comes to skin sun damage. According to dermatologists, over 80% of signs of skin ageing are actually due to sun exposure – not your age.
- It Protects Your Skin from UV Rays: The depletion of the ozone layer has increased our risk of sun damage from harmful UV rays. Sunscreen blocks these rays, greatly reducing the likelihood of sunburn.
- It Prevents Premature Aging of the Skin: Sun damage from UV rays causes photoaging of the skin, which is characterized by a thick, leathery look; discolouration; and a breakdown of collagen, which contributes to lines, sagging and wrinkles. Regular use of good sunscreen helps protect against both UVA & UVB rays.
- It Helps Maintain an Even Skin Tone: Sunscreen helps prevent discolouration and dark spots from sun damage, helping you maintain a smoother and more even skin tone.
- Prevent Skin Cancer: sunscreen use can help prevent skin cancer by protecting you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race. It is estimated that one in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Regular sunscreen usage considerably lowers your risk.
Fun fact, even on cloudy days, up to 80 per cent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin, crazy, isn’t it? Snow, sand, and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun’s rays.
No matter the season or weather, ultraviolet rays are at work. Sunscreen should be worn every single day, year-round, unless you live in a basement where there is no trace of sunlight, of course! It’s also essential to wear sunscreen indoors because sunlight can seep through your windows and blinds. While an SPF 15 sunscreen works for indoor usage, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 or above is your best friend for any direct sun exposure!
Which sunscreen should you go for?
Now that we know how essential SPF is to your daily routine, let’s talk about which sunscreen you should be using.
The active ingredients in sunscreens work by creating UV filters that keep harmful UV rays from penetrating the skin. There are two types of sunscreens – mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. Each type uses a different mechanism for filtering UV rays and protecting the skin from damage.
Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin’s surface, acting as a physical blocker by deflecting and scattering UV rays away from the skin like tiny mirrors. Because they block UV rays at the surface level, mineral sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Also, because mineral sunscreens create a physical barrier, they are effective as soon as they are applied, so there is no need to wait.
They also must be applied liberally to ensure adequate protection. Because the nanoparticles in mineral sunscreens should not be inhaled, it is best to avoid spray and powder formulations to minimize lung exposure. Mineral sunscreens contain the active ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide or a combination of the two.
So, to sum it up:
- Offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays (it’s naturally broad-spectrum)
- Protects skin from the sun as soon as it’s applied; there’s no wait needed for it to take effect
- Lasts longer than chemical sunscreen when exposed to direct UV light (but NOT when doing physical activities that cause the skin to get wet or sweaty)
- Less likely to cause a stinging sensation or irritation, making it better for sensitive, easily-reactive skin types
- Better for those with heat-activated skin (like those prone to rosacea and extreme redness) since it deflects the heat given off by the sun along with UV rays
- Less likely to be pore-clogging, making it ideal for blemish-prone skin types (of course, this will also depend on the other ingredients used in a formula)
- Has a longer shelf life than chemical sunscreen
- May leave a white cast on the skin, making some formulas incompatible with darker skin tones (though tinted formulas are available)
- May create an occlusive film (barrier), which results in increased perspiration during physical activities. This can cause the sunscreen to wear off more quickly
- Tends to be thicker, which will require more effort to rub in
- Won’t offer full protection unless applied generously and accurately. Otherwise, UV light can get through gaps in the sunscreen molecules and penetrate the skin.
On the other hand, chemical sunscreens are absorbed into your skin and sit in the deeper layers. They absorb UV rays and change them into heat, then release the heat from the skin.
Since UV rays must penetrate the skin to reach these chemicals, chemical sunscreens may not protect against all UVA rays, which still causes damage to the deeper layers of the skin.
Because chemical sunscreens take about 20 minutes to be effective, planning is required.
- Tends to be thinner and, therefore, spreads more easily on the skin, making it more wearable for daily use (especially under makeup)
- Less is needed to protect the skin because there is no risk of there being gaps between the sunscreen molecules after application
The formula is easier to add additional treatment ingredients to such as peptides, antioxidants, and enzymes. These can offer additional skin-protecting benefits
- Can cause an increase in existing brown spots and discolouration due to the chemical reaction that increases internal skin temperature (yes, heat can make brown spots worse)
- Requires 10-15 minutes to become effective after application
- Increased chance of irritation and stinging (especially for those who have dry skin with a damaged moisture barrier) due to the multiple ingredients combined to achieve broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection
- The higher the SPF (especially formulas of SPF 50 or greater), the higher the risk of irritation for sensitive skin types
- Doesn’t last as long as physical sunscreen when exposed to direct UV light, which means reapplication must be more frequent
- Increased chance of redness for rosacea-prone skin types because it changes UV rays into heat, which can exacerbate flushing
- Can cause stinging if it drips into the eyes from sweat.
2. SPF & PA Ratings
PA Rating for UVA protection: PA ratings measure your sunscreen’s ability to protect from UVA rays. The PA rating system was originally established in Japan as a method of informing consumers of the level of protection provided by sunscreen. The pluses indicate the hierarchy of protection available. The more pluses, the higher the protection.
The rating system is as follows:
- PA+ = Some UVA protection
- PA++ = Moderate UVA protection
- PA+++ = High UVA protection
- PA++++ = Extremely High UVA protection
These ratings correlate directly with something called “Persistent Pigment Darkening” (PPD), which refers to how long it takes for the skin to tan. If your product has a PPD of 2, then it takes twice as long for your skin to tan when protected versus how long it would take while unprotected. If your product has a PPD of 5, then it takes five times as long.
- PA+ = PPD between 2 and 4
- PA++ = PPD between 4 and 8
- PA+++ = PPD between 8 and 16
- PA++++ = PPD of 16 or higher
SPF for UVB protection: SPF is a measure of how much UVB light sunscreen can filter out. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and the number beside it indicates how well the sunscreen protects skin against sunburn. It is not an indicator of how long you can stay out in the sun, rather, it indicates how much longer it takes untanned skin to start to redden with sunscreen applied compared to how long it takes to start reddening without it.
- To work out the SPF of a sunscreen, laboratory tests are carried out on an untanned patch of skin (such as the buttocks) of human volunteers. Sunscreen is applied liberally to the skin, which is then exposed to simulated sunlight via UV lamps. Measurements are taken of how long it takes the skin to get a minimal burn when covered with sunscreen, and how long it takes to get the same minimal redness without it.
To get the SPF number, a simple formula is used. The number of seconds it takes a patch of skin to slightly redden when covered in sunscreen is divided by the number of seconds it takes to slightly redden when there is no sunscreen applied. Say it took 300 seconds for the skin to burn with sunscreen, and 10 seconds to burn without it. 300 is divided by 10, which is 30. The SPF is 30.
Now what’s important to note is that the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) scale is not linear:
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
So, one way of looking at this is that SPF 30 sunscreen only gives you 4% more protection than SPF 15 sunscreen. Or:
- SPF 15 (93% protection) allows 7 out of 100 photons through
- SPF 30 (97% protection) allows 3 out of 100 photons through.
So, while you may not be doubling your level of protection, an SPF 30 will block half the radiation that an SPF 15 would let through to your skin. It’s complicated, but to keep it simple, most dermatologists recommend using an SPF 15 or SPF 30 sunscreen.
Dermatologists recommend everyone to use sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays), is SPF 30 or higher and of course, one that is water-resistant.
Regardless of which sunscreen you choose, be sure to apply it generously to achieve the UV protection indicated on the product label.
Sunscreen formulation typically refers to a sunscreen’s delivery format and affects how it feels and looks on an individual’s skin. There are three common sunscreen formulations available on the market. Although each of these forms has its benefits, they can all offer sun protection if used right:
- SUNSCREEN SPRAYS
These are perfect for applying sunscreen to hard-to-reach places on the body. They are a good option for anyone with a lot of body hair. However, make sure not to inhale the spray while applying.
- SUNSCREEN LOTIONS
These are among the most common and moisturizing sunscreen formulations available. They are available in multiple variants to cater to various skin types.
- SUNSCREEN STICKS
These are among the most portable and less messy options. You can use them by applying them to your skin and rubbing them in. They are a convenient option and are especially suitable for travel. They have minimal chances of leakage.
In general, all sunscreens have a shelf life of three years. Store them in a cool and dry place for best results.
How and how much should you apply?
If we think about it, sunscreen forms a very important component of our skincare routine or daily lifestyle for that matter! But what if I tell you that you’ve been applying it wrong all this time? Proper usage is a huge part of measuring whether sunscreen is effective and serving its purpose, and research shows that most people are misunderstanding the correct method.
A study has found that overall, consumers only use about 20 to 25% of the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the numbered protection on the bottle. There are a plethora of articles, blogs or videos out there describing the importance of SPF, but how much do we know about its application techniques?
We know what you’re thinking; “What? Does someone need to teach me how to put on sunscreen?” Well, you’ll be surprised to know that there are so many people who aren’t aware of how much to apply. A common misconception is that it should be applied just like you apply moisturiser. Believe it or not, there is a rule of thumb as to how much sunscreen you are meant to typically apply to your face to give yourself the correct amount of protection.
It's common knowledge that SPF is necessary protection, but we have all been guilty of not using an adequate amount, forgetting to reapply, or skipping days altogether.
How much sunscreen do you need on the face in teaspoons?
You need a generous ¼ teaspoon of sunscreen for your face, the front of your neck, your ears and the little space behind your ears in front of your hairline. Use more if you have a high forehead or large face.
To be safe, aim for between ¼ and ½ teaspoon of sunscreen for your face/neck/ears. This is sufficient for most people.
Well, if you can’t get your hands on a teaspoon we also have a tablespoon reference! You need 1/12 of a Tablespoon of sunscreen for your face.
Like every other thing, here’s the rule of thumb!
The two-finger method is an easy way for you to measure how much sunscreen to apply to your face. To try this technique, simply squeeze the product in two separate lines on your pointer and middle finger. According to dermatologists, for maximum coverage, the sunscreen protection factor must be SPF 30 and above.
Also, what’s important to note is that sunscreen isn’t just meant to be applied to the face; it’s important to keep in mind that every exposed part of your body needs sun protection, whether it’s your neck, hands, arms or even legs!
Believe it or not, the two-finger rule and reapplication every two hours will do wonders for your skin. Unlike some skincare steps, sunscreen usually needs multiple applications a day, especially if you're spending a lot of time outside. The potency of the sunscreen breaks down on the skin as it interacts with body oils and fluids. Therefore, reapplication is required every two hours.
The CosIQ SPF serum is a hybrid formula (a blend of chemical and mineral sunscreens)with both chemical and mineral filters. It provides broad-spectrum UVA, UVB, UVC and IR protection.
And *drumroll*here comes the best part: It leaves no white cast and is sweat as well as water-resistant! This double encapsulated formula also protects against pollution and is an antioxidant support matrix (all in one, I know right?)
This lightweight vanishing serum provides complete protection for easy wearability every day!
We mean, ultimately what does one even want more than a dewy sun-kissed face without the risk of UV damage? So go get your hands on the SPF of your choice and get your skin the very love that it deserves because after all, sun protection is the very basic step to skincare!