How To Choose The Right Sunscreen For Your SkinJuly 4, 2016
Skin cancer may not be one of the most common afflictions in Singapore but make no mistake; the sun’s UV rays can still damage your skin and wreak havoc on your looks.
In a tropical city like Singapore, going without sun protection is foolhardy. According to the Singapore Cancer Registry 2010 – 2014, skin cancer ranks 6th in male cancers and 7th in female cancers. Even if, statistically, skin cancer fatalities are much lower than those caused by lung, breast, or colon cancers, it does not mean we should throw caution to the wind and regard sunscreens as an optional skincare step.
Why a good sunscreen matters
The most basic function of a sunscreen is to protect your skin from the burning effects of the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays – the chief culprit behind sunburn. A sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) blocks out most of the UVB rays so your skin doesn’t burn up as quickly. The UV ray that penetrates the skin more deeply, however, is the ultraviolet A (UVA). Associated with photoaging, UVA is what causes skin to develop aging signs such as wrinkles, sagginess, pigmentation and leathering. These days, most sunscreens also come with a PA-rating to tell consumers they also protect skin from UVA rays.
A good sunscreen should protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Look out for the term “Broad Spectrum”. It should also be sweat- and/or water-resistant to prevent the product from getting washed off while you’re out and about.
With so many options available in the market, how do you go about choosing the one best suited for you?
1. Work out the SPF and PA protection you need
SPF: If your skin, without sunscreen, turns red after 20 minutes in the sun, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will keep you protected, theoretically, for 30 times longer – 600 minutes (10 hours). However, this is just a guide and results will vary depending on how you apply the product. As a rule of thumb, you should reapply your sunscreen after every two hours of intense exposure and, do not go above SPF 50 – that’s unnecessary and is often a marketing gimmick.
And, no, SPF values do not add up. If your foundation has SPF 20 and your sunscreen has an SPF of 30, they do not collectively give you a protection of SPF 50. You will only get a protection of SPF 30.
PA: The more “+” symbols, the more protection the sunscreen gives against UVA rays. If you are concerned about premature skin aging, look out for a sunscreen with as many “+” symbols as you can. They typically go up to four.
2. Figure out your greatest skin concern
Sunscreens come in a myriad of textures and finishes. What feels and looks good for one may not work for another. If you are suffering from oily skin and acne, avoid sunscreens with a greasy or creamy finish and opt for one that’s watery or has a lotion texture. Certain acne treatments make the skin more sun-sensitive so additional protection such as hats and visors should also be worn when you head outside. Those with allergy-prone skin should steer clear of sunscreens containing artificial fragrances, preservatives, PABA (a chemical substance that may cause allergic contact dermatitis), oxybenzone and alcohol.
Physical sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are much better tolerated by those with sensitive skins and by children.
Ingredients such as oxybenzone, which can disrupt the hormone system, and retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may trigger cancer, should be avoided.
3. Apply or spray?
While a spray-on sunscreen may be convenient and gives the illusion of a more even coverage, it is best to stick with sunscreens that require you to apply using the hand. Spray-on sunscreen may lead to accidental inhalation.
While ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide may be great as a physical sunscreen because of their low skin penetration, these ingredients are toxic to the respiratory system and organs when inhaled.
In conclusion, sunscreen is not an optional skincare step. It is a necessity that protects your skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. However, as with many products, it should be used with care. And, don’t just limit sunscreen to your face; it should be applied to any area that is exposed to the sun, such as your hands, your neck, and your back.