Beauty

Everthing You Need to Know About Sun Protection

First, SPF only protects from sunburn, not the more harmful UVA rays.
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It’s now common knowledge that excessive sun exposure causes not just temporary sunburn but permanent wrinkles, premature aging, and worst of all, skin cancer. There are actually two kinds of ultraviolet radiation you get from the sun: UVB rays which are shorter wavelengths that bring about sunburn and the longer wavelengths called UVA rays that penetrate deeper into the skin and damage DNA and cell membranes, suppress the immune system, and cause skin cancer. It was not until lately that experts discovered the effects of UVA, so earlier forms of sunblock—such as those that we used some 10 years ago—only protected us from UVB and allowed UVA to seep into the skin. 

SPF only measures the span of time your sunscreen will work in preventing sunburn and it only works against UVB. For instance, if it takes five minutes before you burn under the sun, your SPF 30 sunscreen will protect you from UVB for more or less 150 minutes.

While it’s probably the first (and only) thing you consider—it’s the largest print you’ll see on the bottle after all—SPF or Sun Protection Factor is literally just one factor to weigh when it comes to choosing a sunscreen. The skinny? SPF only measures the span of time your sunscreen will work in preventing sunburn and it only works against UVB. For instance, if it takes five minutes before you burn under the sun, your SPF 30 sunscreen will protect you from UVB for more or less 150 minutes. Given that, you really have to reapply it after three hours. 

With Zinc Oxide and Titatnium Oxide, which reflects UVA and UVB: 1. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen in Sensitive; 2. Neutrogena Pure and Free Liquid Daily Sunblock; 3. John Masters Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen; and 4. VMV Hypoallergenics Armada Post-Procedure Barrier Cream

5. Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector; 6. Clinique Super City Block Oil-Free Daily Face Protector; and 7. Clarins UV Plus Day Screen High Protection Tint 

8. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Aging Primer with Sunscreen; and 9. Lancôme UV Expert Blue Lizard, Neutrogena, La Roche-Posay at leading department stores

The typical sunscreen works in two ways: It either blocks UV rays or absorbs them before they damage your skin. But which is better, a sunscreen that blocks or one that absorbs? To answer that, you have know its active ingredients and how they work.

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Avobenzone Parsol and Mexoryl absorb UVA. Octinoxate and Padimate O absorb UVB. Dioxybenzone and Oxybenzone absorb both UVA and UVB. Most of these sunblock components that “absorb,” however, easily break down after soaking up the harmful rays. Moreover, unless they’re combined in one package, most of these ingredients work for only one UV ray or the other. Wide-spectrum sunscreens which are properly termed sunblocks, on the other hand, usually contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, Mexoryl, or Helioplex to reflect and scatter, not absorb, both UVA and UVB. Thus, it’s best to choose sunscreens that contain these ingredients.

The typical sunscreen works in two ways: It either blocks UV rays or absorbs them before they damage your skin. But which is better, a sunscreen that blocks or one that absorbs?

“The ideal broad-spectrum sunscreen to use in the tropics should contain ingredients that are specifically anti-UVB, UVA, VL (visible light), and IR (infrared light). These are sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher, with anti-UVA ingredients, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide physical light blocks,” says Dr. Vermen Verallo-Rowell, the woman behind VMV Skin Research Centre. “There may be some downside in using some sunscreens containing these mentioned ingredients, but that’s still under research. It’s because many manufacturers have begun using them in nanoparticles or micronized pigments to yield thinner formulations and transparent lotions, which of course, most consumers like. What they don’t know is that these nanoparticles, since they’re very, very small, may penetrate the cells and cause DNA damage after exposure to sunlight. So while it’s less convenient to apply thicker and whiter lotions [that contain coarse and fine particles of titanium dioxide], you should remember that they may still be the safest,” she adds. 

10. Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster; 11. L’Oréal Paris Sublime Sun Crystal Clear Mist; 12. Coppertone Oil Free Faces; 13. Banana Boat Sport Performance CoolZone Broad Spectrum Sunblock; 14. Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Sunscreen; and 15. Benefit Triple Performing Facial Emulsion

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16. Neutrogena Age Shield Sunblock with Helioplex 17. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock

Still, the best sun protection, according to many experts, is clothing. Cotton, nylon, and polyester fabrics have natural UV absorbing properties, while lightly woven fabrics like wool and darker shades like black, blue, and brown can provide higher UV protection.

Fast Facts About Sun Care

  • Some prescriptions for high blood pressure, birth control pills, and certain antibiotics can make you sensitive to the sun and vulnerable to a bad burn, so check your medications to know if you need more protection.
  • While the sun’s rays can be hard on your skin, there are several benefits of sun exposure, too. The sun’s ultraviolet light actually stimulates chemical and metabolic responses in your body to produce vitamin D, an essential nutrient which promotes bone health, protects against cell damage, and reduces the risk of colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.
  • It’s healthy to expose yourself under the morning sun for five or more minutes (the duration depending on your skin type) thrice a week. Remember, the fairer you are, the less time you need under the sun.

 

Some of Our Favorite Sun Protection Products

ZO Skin Health Oclipse Sunscreen SPF30+ Primer
This sunscreen provides protection and ample coverage without the sticky or chalky look others cause, but its claim to fame is its patented use of melanin with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. “Melanin is produced as your skin’s natural response to protect you from the sun’s rays. The Oclipse sunscreen contains melanin, truly nature’s best photo-protectant. It helps deflect the UV rays,” Dr. Zein Obagi told us when he recently visited Manila. Belo Medical, 844.1182

Sunpill
This oral sun protection contains an anti-oxidant fern plant extract called polypodium leucotomos, which has been shown to inhibit UV-induced free radicals. Best if used as a daily supplement. Healthy Options, 893.1714

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About The Author
Nicole Limos
Managing Editor
Nicole’s career in publishing began in 2006. Before becoming Town & Country online’s managing editor, she moved from features editor to beauty editor of the title’s print edition. “The lessons in publishing are countless,” she says. “The most crucial ones for me? That to write best about life, you need to live your life. And another I still struggle to live by: ‘Brevity is a virtue; verbosity is a vice.’”
View Other Articles From Nicole
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