This week we’ll be answering some of the most common questions that we get regarding sun protection.
Chemical sunscreen uses ingredients that absorb into the skin and work by absorbing the UV rays, converting them to heat and then releases this heat back into the environment. These sunscreens tend to be thinner formulations that don’t feel as heavy on the skin but few chemicals used for sun protection provide broad spectrum protection, usually failing when it comes to UVA.
Physical sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin and reflect the UV rays, these tend to be thicker formulations that can cause a white cast and need to be worked into the skin however they are the best option for full spectrum protection.
Always make sure that your sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection - it just so happens that zinc is the best broad spectrum sunscreen ingredient on the market.
UVA and UVB refer to UltraViolet A & B, there’s also UVC although that isn’t talked about much. The A, the B and the C refers to the wavelengths of light. A helpful shorthand for understanding how they affect you is that the A stands for Aging, the B stands for Burning and the C stands for Cancer. It’s worth noting that this is a very basic shorthand and that all 3 wavelengths can cause all 3 kinds of damage with prolonged exposure.
Generally the UVA is not absorbed by the Ozone Layer so most of the radiation damage we receive comes from UVA, it is not usually affected by cloud cover. UVB is mostly absorbed by the Ozone Layer and what does get through can be blocked by cloud cover so this form of UV usually affects us during direct sun exposure. UVC is almost completely absorbed by the Ozone Layer but some does get through, especially in areas with a compromised Ozone Layer such as Australia.
You absolutely can! You need to be using sunscreen EVERY day.
While the cloud cover cuts out most of UVB, UVA still gets through and with prolonged exposure, you can still burn, especially if you are fair. This bigger issue with exposure on overcast days is the aging ability of the UVA on you skin. The Free Radical damage that is happening on a cellular level is causing your cells to age at a much greater rate so because you’re less likely to burn or feel the damage, it’s super important to get into the habit of wearing sunscreen daily. A good quality Vitamin C Serum is also a great idea from the age of about 20 to help support your SPF by being a powerful antioxidant the directly fight the free radical damage caused by UV exposure.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and that is your baseline burn rate based on your own skin. For example, if you burn after 20 minutes of exposure that’s your natural SPF rate.
SPF ratings on products refer to the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin. In this example a product with an SPF of 20 will mean that 1/20 of the burning radiation will reach your skin provided that you have applied you product correctly (and we will get to application shortly). This means that it will take 20 times longer for you to burn so proper application of a sunscreen with an SPF of 20 will give you 400 minutes or about 6.5 hours of protection before you will burn. Most sunscreens will require you to re-apply every 2 hours or more frequently depending on your activity level but once you have reached 6.5 hours you will begin to burn no matter how much sunscreen you reapply.
This fraction also refers to the percentage of UV that is blocked. An SPF of 20 blocks approximately 94% of UV, an SPF of 30 blocks approximately 96% of UV and an SPF of 50 blocks approximately 98% of UV so you can see that once you hit 30, the difference is much smaller so our advice is to find a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 20 that you like to wear daily, and stick with it. If you are outdoors, we recommend upping that to at least a 30 as well as wearing a hat.
You should apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating or swimming. Sunscreen are tested for effectiveness at 2mg per centimeter of skin. What does that mean? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that an adult uses an ounce of sunscreen for a full body application. The Cancer Council of Australia says that’s approximately ½ a teaspoon for face, head and neck, same for each arm and same for each other section too. If you think that sounds like a lot, it’s actually because at a lower rate than this, sunscreen protection is spotty and doesn’t provide consistent protection. If your current sunscreen is too greasy or white or too expensive to apply at this rate then we suggest you find another sunscreen that you like or can at least tolerate the dry down, smell and feel of so that you can use it daily at the right amount to protect your skin. Most people tend to apply about ½ (or less!) of the correct amount meaning that they get less than ½ of the protection listed on the label.
Remember though, once you have hit your maximum protection (SPF x your natural burn rate) you will burn no matter how much sunscreen you re-apply.
Check out Spa Sophia’s picks for this Summer available now at Spa Sophia…
TiZo Fusion Sheer Botanicals Non-Tinted SPF 45 $41.00
Epicuren Discovery X-Tream Cream SPF 45 $43.00
TiZo Fusion TiZo2 Primer/Sunscreen Non-Tinted SPF 40 $41.00
Epicuren Discovery Zinc Oxide Perfecting Sunscreen SPF 27 $43.00
Epicuren Discovery Active Sport Treat SPF 30+ $35.50
TiZo Fusion Ultra Zinc Tinted SPF 40 $41.00
ISUN Antioxidant Sun Butter SPF 27 $40.00