We all know that sunscreen protects us not only in the most anticipated period of the year, i.e., summer but in all seasons if used correctly.
Although we like to be tanned, we are now aware that the sun’s rays do not only give a beautiful complexion to our skin, because they can also damage it.
This is why it is essential to protect ourselves from them. Sun protection, at any season of the year, creates a protective barrier that covers our skin. In this way, it defends it from harmful radiation and allows a healthy tan.
To find out the best products and all their potential to protect us, continue reading our guide.
Buying Guide to Select the Best Sunscreens
It is important that, before buying a sunscreen, you know all the main aspects of this product. Below we will answer the most frequently asked questions about sun protection.
So that you can make a more informed choice when buying the one that best suits your skins and provide you protection.
What Exactly Is Sunscreen?
Sunscreens, as the name suggests, are products designed to protect the skin from the sun’s rays. These are agents that act locally, available in lotion, cream, gel, or spray format. Protection varies by product, but never reaches 100%. It must be applied before sun exposure.
The level of protection is measured through the FPS or Sun Protection Factor. FPS or SPF indicates the sunscreen’s ability to prevent damage to the skin by UVB rays, responsible for the burns. The higher the FPS, the greater the protection.
What Is Solar Radiation and Why Is It Harmful?
Solar radiation can seriously affect our health. We must understand that the sun emits two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB rays. Its action on the skin is different.
UVA rays penetrate the depth of our skin, causing wrinkles, expression lines, and loss of elasticity. UVB rays, on the other hand, act on the surface. They are responsible for sunburns and increase the risk of suffering from skin cancer.
UVA rays also aggravate these effects. So sun exposure causes, on the one hand, skin aging and, on the other, promotes the appearance of cancer.
Why Is It Recommended to Use Sunscreen?
There are various reasons why it is important to use sunscreen, given the possible harmful effects of the sun’s rays on our health. On the one hand, sunscreen prevents the appearance of sunburn.
This is important since they represent a risk factor for skin cancer. Also, they are painful and produce skin irritation. On the other hand, they minimize the effects of aging. So wrinkles and other signs of aging are prevented.
They also help to mitigate the spots caused by the sun and prevent their appearance. Finally, they prevent skin cancer in various ways. In summary, we can say that sunscreen contributes to total skincare.
How Does Sun Protection Work?
Generally, sunscreens work by mitigating the effects of sunlight. Their mechanism of action changes according to physical or chemical protection. On the one hand, the chemical one is the most used for its cosmetic properties.
It spreads easily without leaving stains and leaves a pleasant effect. They contain substances that absorb solar radiation so that it is not harmful.
On the other hand, there is physical protection. Its action is similar to that of a mirror. The received solar radiation is reflected by diverting it. It has a greater spectrum of protection.
How Long Do the Effects of Sun Protection Last?
The duration of sun protection varies according to various factors. On the one hand, it will depend on the protection factor. The higher this is, the more protection time you will have.
For example, let’s say your skin usually turns red after 20 minutes of sun exposure. Using a filter with an FPS of 30, this time will multiply by 30. That is 600 minutes.
On the other hand, the effects of sunscreen will depend on your skin type. There are skins more sensitive than others to sunlight.
This is also influenced by the time of day, given that we will have the highest radiation at noon. Not only that, but this also affects the altitude at which we are, the season of the year, and the activities we do.
Other factors that play an important role are the correct application of the product and the amount absorbed by the skin. In short, we can see that the duration of sunscreen is susceptible to several variations. This is why it is important to know in which situation you need more protection.
Increase sun protection (frequency of application or SPF) if:
→ You are a light skin type (skin more sensitive to the sun)
→ You want to protect the skin of young children.
→ You expose yourself in the hours of maximum incidence (noon)
→ It is summer
→ The day is sunny, cloudless.
→ You are in the water.
→ You have specific skin conditions.
→ Take photosensitizing drugs
→ You are at a higher altitude and lower latitude (higher than sea level and closer to the Equator).
What Types of Sun Protection Are There?
Sunscreens can be classified according to distinct criteria. According to the mechanism of action, we distinguish between physical and chemical protection that we talked about previously.
We can also add biological protection. These specific protections contain substances of natural origin with antioxidant power. Thanks to this property, certain harmful actions of the sun’s rays are prevented, even if the protection is not complete.
For this reason, they are often used to enhance the effect of other photo protectors. They can be waterproof or water-resistant, depending on their properties.
- Waterproof: They maintain their protective property for up to 80 minutes in water.
- Water Resistant: They maintain their protective property for up to 40 minutes in water.
Finally, there is a special range of sunscreen called biodegradable. It is a type of sunscreen that does not contain substances that can be harmful to the environment. They were created to respect the marine ecosystem and thus contribute to respectful protection for the environment.
When to Use Sunscreen?
Experts in dermatology and skin cancers recommend the use of sunscreen every day from 6 months of age. This recommendation is based on the fact that the sun affects our skin even with minimal exposure.
That is to say that it is not necessary to go to the beach to sunbathe for its radiation to act. It is recommended to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. In this way, all its components will be completely absorbed.
It is also recommended to repeat the application of the sunscreen every 2 hours if the exposure is prolonged. This period can be shortened in case of skin sensitivity to the sun or whenever necessary.
How Is Sunscreen Applied?
To obtain optimal protection, it is essential to apply sunscreen correctly. According to the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, it must be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure.
The skin must be dry and clean. It is recommended to use an abundant quantity, about 2 mg of product per 2 cm of skin.
The product must be spread evenly throughout the body, paying more attention to the most sensitive areas. These include the face, chest, neck, ears, shoulders, hands, and instep.
What Are the Disadvantages of Sunscreen?
First of all, using sunscreen is essential. Despite this, its use can indeed have side effects. For example, certain components of chemical photo protectors can irritate our skin.
The physical photo protectors, in turn, are heavy to apply and leave a white layer on the skin. The impact on the environment must be taken into consideration. Some sunscreen ingredients are harmful to the ecosystem.
On the other hand, the protection of the sunscreens is variable and never covers 100%. Therefore, you may experience burns or other harmful effects based on the sunscreen used.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Sunscreen?
As we have seen, sunscreens are essential for proper skincare. Without a doubt, like any cosmetic product, they can give certain drawbacks. We have created a table that summarizes the main advantages and disadvantages of this type of product, so you can better analyze them.
- They prevent skin aging
- They attenuate and prevent stains
- They prevent skin cancers
- They avoid burns
- Easy to apply
- Possible skin irritation
- Variable protection
Type of Sun Protection
As we have seen, the market offers a great variety of sun protection depending on the mechanism of action, format, and properties. For this, it is an aspect that you will have to consider when choosing your cream.
As far as the mechanism of action is concerned, chemical filters are more practical and offer ample protection. For skin highly sensitive to the sun, it will be preferable to apply physical filters with more coverage.
Both can be integrated with biological filters. If you spend most of your time in the water, we recommend choosing a water-resistant photoprotector. In case you travel to an area with protected ecosystems, choose biodegradable protection.
Degree of Sun Protection
The degree of sun protection determines the FPS, as we have already said. You will have to choose a higher or lower level of protection depending on different factors.
First of all, if you have a clear skin type, you will need high protection. It is recommended to increase protection in case of water activities and on sunny days.
It is also preferable to use high protection during the summer, especially during the central hours of the day. Your location also determines the protection you need.
The higher the altitude, the more the effects of sunlight will be. And this also happens based on how close we are to the Equator. In this case, more protection is needed.