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The Importance of Sunscreen

June 30, 2019
The Importance of Sunscreen

There’s a saying, “aging is mandatory, but looking your age is not.”  If you believe in this philosophy, then you can consider sunscreen to be something straight from the fountain of youth. However, even if anti-aging doesn’t come close to your top priority, sunscreen should still be a mandatory staple in your daily routine.

But why is it so important to wear sunscreen? Why do we have to reapply, and what’s wrong with just using the SPF in your moisturizer or makeup?

Before you sacrifice the SPF this season in favor of a tan, you should be informed of the potential damage you’d be vulnerable to.

Photo from New England Journal of Medicine, released 2012

In 2012, this photo became iconic in the skincare and medical communities. The depicted man was 69 years old at the time the photo was taken. He had been a truck driver of 28 years, and the photo showcases the severe UV damage on the side of his face facing the driver’s window.

The sun is the number one cause of visible signs of aging because UVA rays (also referred to as aging rays) damage collagen and elastin on the cellular level. UVB rays are equally damaging, as they are known as the burning rays that cause sunburn.  These rays affect your body in different ways, making it especially important to select a “Broad Spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both forms of UV rays.

Some people neglect to put on sunscreen because growing up, sunscreen was sticky, had a weird smell, left a white cast, wasn’t great to rub into the skin, caused breakouts and felt greasy…The list could go on and on. It’s no wonder that some people are hesitant to reintroduce sunscreen into  their routine today.

The good news is that sunscreen has come a long way over the past decade, improving on all of the concerns consumers previously had. Now, depending on the brand, you can find a sunscreen that’s lightweight, invisible, noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores), hypoallergenic, gluten free, paraben free, and fragrance free! They come in lotions, sprays, even clear sticks that can be reapplied invisibly over your makeup. The excuses to not wear sunscreen are a thing of the past.

If you are one of the many that does not apply sunscreen simply because your makeup has SPF in it, you should know that the coverage, even if it has a high SPF, is not enough for protecting your skin. Studies have found that you’d have to apply around 7x the amount of makeup for enough coverage to truly protect your skin. If that resonates to you, you can even take baby steps towards the transition to more SPF; A BB or CC cream with SPF in it has been noted as a better option because they are products that are meant to reapplied at least once during the day.

Reapplying is one of the key components that, next to skipping the sunscreen completely, tends to fall through the cracks for most people. SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, measures the amount of time you are protected with that product. For instance, if you have a sunscreen with an SPF 30+, it means you are protected from UV rays for roughly 30 minutes. The Sun Protection Factor means nothing though if you are not choosing the correct formulation of sunscreen for your lifestyle.

Luckily, there are only two different ‘types’ of sunscreen to choose from: physical and chemical. A physical sunscreen, sometimes referred to as a mineral sunscreen, contains active ingredients such as Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide that reflect the sun’s rays. In reflecting UV rays away from your body, physical sunscreens prevent them from being absorbed into the skin and causing damage.

On the other hand, chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb UV rays,  converting them through a chemical reaction –hence the name– into heat. The heat that is produced leaves your body along with the potential threat from the sun.

When deciding on which formulation is right for you, there are a few other factors to consider. For instance, those with sensitive skin generally prefer a physical sunscreen because it tends to be gentle. If you’ve ever felt a tingling (or even a mild burning) sensation from your sunscreen, you may be using chemical over physical and should consider making the switch.

Lifestyle should also play a role in the decision process of choosing the best sunscreen. If you are active and sweat frequently, or go into the pool/ocean, you’ll need a chemical sunscreen. This is because chemical sunscreens are available in waterproof formulations, whereas physical sunscreens will wash off and leave you unprotected.

Although formula is important for your personal preferences, it is widely agreed that the formulation of a sunscreen is not nearly as important as the SPF. So, if you are wearing at least a broad spectrum SPF30 daily, you are already off to a great start. Either way, be sure to remove your SPF at night with an oil-based cleanser, as it is necessary to remove the ingredients from sunscreen. If you suffer from breakouts and suspect it’s from your sunscreen, it is possible you aren’t removing it properly. If you have oily skin and do not want to use an oil cleanser, just remember that you can do a double cleanse (oil cleanser first, foam cleanser second) to remove any residue.

With all the potential damage the sun can cause, from sunburn and dark spots to skin cancer, sunscreen should be a staple in your routine. Your skin is your largest organ and should be treated with the same care you would give your heart, your liver, your kidneys, etc. You only get one self so it’s important to keep it all healthy. Wearing SPF 30+ chemical or physical sunscreen and reapplying as recommended is the easiest method of self-care you’ll thank yourself for in the future.

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