If you want to use just one product for your skincare and nothing else, It definitely has to be sunscreen. it is that important and because the formulations of good sunscreens are very complicated, a good sunscreen tends to be on the higher side of the pricing, but a good sunscreen is definitely worth its price. Here in this article, we will learn why sunscreen is important for your skincare, what is SPF and PA, What are mineral and chemical sunscreens and how to go about choosing a sunscreen that is best for you.
- Why do we need sunscreen?
- The Fitzpatrick scale
- What is SPF, PA & Broad spectrum?
- Different types of sunscreens
- Sunscreen for Oily Acne-prone skin, Dry skin and Sensitive Skin types
- How to correctly use a sunscreen
Why do we need sunscreen?
Even though the sun gives us energy that we require to function normally on a day to day basis and the very vital Vitamin D to our body, the Ultra Violet rays emanating from the sun can do a lot of damage to our skin. The radiation that we receive from the sun emanates three types of UV rays, UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC radiation typically gets filtered off by the ozone layer of the earth and the two kinds of radiation that we really need to worry about for our skincare is UVA and UVB.
Sunlight has 500 times more amount of UVA present compared to UVB and what makes it more worrisome is that the wavelength of UVA is large, enabling it to reach into the deeper layers of skin. That’s exactly the reason why UVA is able to reach the nucleus of our skin cells and actually damage the DNA. UVA is so dangerous that it also plays a vital role in the development of skin cancer in our bodies.
UVA is also the radiation that actually damages the collagen and elastin in our skin furthering skin ageing and premature wrinkling.
Though the constituency of UVB is much less than UVA, UVB is the radiation that is primarily responsible for skin cancers, because UVB is the one that causes skin burns. UVB also supports freckling and hyperpigmentation in our skin.
The Fitzpatrick scale
Developed in 1975, The Fitzpatrick scale differentiates various skin types based on the colour shades depending upon the amount of pigment present in your skin, The Fitzpatrick scale helps us understand the damage the sun exposure does to our skin and accordingly the protection our skin requires, based on our skin type.
Type 1: Light, pale white skin
This type of skin always burns and never tans with sun exposure. A Person with this type of skin can go for 5 to 10 minutes under the sun without skin burn.
Type 2: White and Fair skin
With sun exposure, Type 2 skin, usually burns and tans with difficulty. A Person with this type of skin can go for 5 to 10 minutes under the sun without skin burn.
Type 3: Medium, White to Olive
This type of skin can have mild burns sometimes and gradually tans to olive with the sun exposure. A Person with this type of skin can go for about 15 minutes under the sun without skin burn.
Type 4: Olive, Moderate Brown
This type of skin, it rarely burns and tans easily to a moderate brown. This person can go under the sun for 15 minutes without skin burn.
Type 5: Brown, Dark Brown
Type 5 skinned people suffer burns very rarely due to sun exposure but tan very easily. A person with this skin type can go under the sun exposure for about 20 minutes, without burning the skin.
Type 6: Black, Very Dark Brown to Black
This type of skin never burns, tans very easily and gets deeply pigmented. A Person with this skin type can go under the sun for about 20 minutes, without burning the skin.
What is SPF, PA & Broad spectrum?
The sunscreens available in the market, usually carry one or more of these terms mentioned on their containers i.e., SPF, PA and Broad spectrum and all these terms are a measure of how much protection they offer against, UVA and UVB radiations.
An abbreviation for Sun Protection Factor, SPF determines, how much protection your sunscreen offers against UVB radiation before your skin starts burning. For example, if your skin colour is fair and you fall under type 2 of the Fitzpatrick scale, your skin can go under the skin for about 10 minutes, before it starts to burn. In that case, if you apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 20, i.e., SPF 20, you will be able to endure 20 x 10 minutes, i.e, about 200 minutes of sun exposure, before your skin starts to burn. Now this gives you an average estimate of protection, but the amount of protection that an individual person gets can vary widely, depending on that person’s skin condition.
PA is an abbreviation for Protection Grade against UVA, is a grading system developed in Japan to educate consumers on the protection your sunscreen provides against UVA, and pluses indicate the level of protection your sunscreen offers against UVA. PA is classified in to four levels, PA+, PA++, PA+++ and PA++++.
- PA+ indicates some protection against UVA
- PA++ indicates moderate protection against UVA
- PA+++ indicates strong protection against UVA
- and PA++++ indicates excellent protection against UVA.
PFA grading system for UVA protection measurement is not approved by FDA and EU, so you will not find this mentioned in a lot of American and European products, but you will find it mostly on all Indian sunscreen formulations.
Some of the sunscreens that don’t mention PA, but offer both UVA and UVB protection label their products as Broad Spectrum. You can find this mentioned of the labels of sunscreens manufactured in the USA and EU, and essentially mean that they provide protection against the whole spectrum of UV radiation.
Different types of sunscreens
Sunscreens can be broadly categorized into 2 types:
- Physical Sunscreen or Mineral Sunscreen
- Chemical Sunscreen
Physical sunscreen, also called mineral sunscreen is something that offers protection against sun exposure, by literally creating a physical layer on your skin and thus blocking the UVA and UVB radiation to enter your skin. A physical sunscreen can be easily identified by looking at the ingredients of the product and you will find Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide. Both Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are the mineral ingredients that physically protect our skin from UVA and UVB rays.
Physical sunscreens are a great choice for people who go out a lot and is also the best option for people with sensitive skin, as they tend to be less irritating. Some of the downsides of the physical sunscreens are that they leave a white cast, because of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and don’t blend into the skin and these can also be heavy on the skin. But the modern formulations that offer matte and tinted versions that alleviate these problems.
Chemical sunscreens can be identified by the usage of the ingredients, Avobenzone, Oxybenzone or Octinoxate in their formulations. These are sunscreens that offer protection against UV radiations, with the help of chemical UV blockers. Most of the chemical sunscreens combine 2 or 3 of the aforementioned chemical UV blockers, here Avobenzene blocks UVA rays, Octinoxate blocks UVB rays, while Oxybenzone filters both UVA and UVB.
While chemical sunscreens are great for sportsmen and people who want water-resistant sunscreens, chemical sunscreens can be irritating and are suggested to be avoided by people with sensitive skin.
Sunscreen for Oily Acne-prone skin, Dry skin and Sensitive Skin types
For Oily acne-prone skin
Mineral sunscreens in the gel formulations are a better choice for people with oily and acne-prone skin, as mineral sunscreens work by creating a physical layer on the skin and don’t penetrate into the skin, The gel formulations are not heavily moisturizing thus avoiding blocking the skin pores and breakouts.
For Dry skin
People with dry skin can opt for both mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens, make sure you also look for anti-oxidants and moisturizing ingredients in your sunscreen.
For Sensitive skin
Chemical sunscreens are a big NO for people with sensitive skin and you should also watch out for ingredients that have nanoparticles, as they can easily penetrate the skin and cause irritation.
How to correctly use a sunscreen
Sunscreen comes after your regular daytime cleansing, toning and moisturizing routine, here are some tips to help you use sunscreen correctly.
- Opt for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and above.
- Put sunscreen in your hands and work it on your face, until it is completely absorbed
- Apply sunscreen, 30 minutes before you go out
- When outdoors, make sure you apply sunscreen, every 2 hours
- You need to apply sunscreen even when you are indoors
- Make sure you apply enough sunscreen on your face
- Apply sunscreen on the parts of your body other than your face, that gets sun exposure
The best sunscreen for you is the one that you want to use every day and regardless of which sunscreen that you do want to apply, it is very important that you do and do it every day. Sunscreens can not only prevent but really help fight off the signs of premature ageing, fine lines and skin damage in general.
This article is medically reviewed by our expert dermatologist, Dr Nagakeerthana Sunder, M.D. DVL