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How To Choose The Right Sunscreen | Weirdskin

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Self tanning lotion and sunscreen lotion laid on leaves under sun

Sunscreen is a skincare product that over the years has been sidelined due to a lot of misinformation surrounding it. From stories of it causing cancer to not being necessary for black skin, I have heard it all. However, this is one of, if not the most essential step in a skincare routine and I love the fact that modern estheticians have contributed a lot to debunk this narrative.

There are a lot of reasons why you should wear sunscreen regularly. In this article, I will lay down everything you need to know about sunscreen. the why, how, when, and how often? All your questions will be answered.

What is Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a substance that protects the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by either reflecting, absorbing, or scattering UVA and UVB rays. Also called sunblock, suntan, or sun cream, it is usually formulated in the form of lotions, creams, gels, sticks, sprays, and powders.

UVA Rays vs. UVB Rays

Understanding the importance is sunscreen for your skin starts by knowing the different ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun that harm the skin.

Two types of harmful UV rays affect the skin. UVA and UVB

UVA rays are those sun rays that penetrate deep into the skin causing premature aging of skin cells. These rays cause the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. This process is referred to as photoaging. These rays equally play a role in the formation of skin cancer.

UVB rays on the other hand are responsible for causing sunburns when skin is exposed to the sun and are largely responsible for causing skin cancer, particularly malignant melanoma (deadly black mole).

It should be noted that 95% of the sun rays that reach the earth are UVA while the remaining 5% are UVB. Because UVA rays have a shorter length and carry lesser energy, they cause indirect damage to cell DNA. On the other hand, UVB rays are longer and stronger and cause direct damage to cell DNA resulting in sunburns and most forms of skin cancer.

How To Choose The Right Sunscreen For Your Skin Type

Sensitive Skin

Go for a mineral sunscreen. these are less irritant than chemical sunscreens. Make sure you pick a product that is fragrance and alcohol-free. Lookout for, ingredients such as panthenol, allantoin, and madecassoside. They have soothing properties and can help to limit irritation on sensitive skin.

Oily Skin

For oily skin stick to lightweight sunscreens that are not greasy, lightweight, and absorb quickly leaving no white cast. A perfect product to try is the Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun: Rice + Probiotics SPF 50 ++++. This sunscreen will nourish and protect your skin from UV rays leaving a dewy finish on the skin ideal for daily use

Dry Skin

For dry skin finding the right balance between moisture and sun protection is the key. One of my all-time favorite sunscreens is the Skin Aqua Super UV Milk SPF 50 +++. This light and milky sunscreen delivers hydration while protecting the skin from the sun.

Normal Skin

If you belong to this category, no need to worry much. Whether physical or chemical sunscreens you are free to pick any. It all boils down to your preference in terms of say texture and convenience. One I will recommend for you is the Sun Bum Face 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion

Acne-prone Skin

For this skin type, avoiding chemical sunscreens that may worsen already existing inflammation is recommended making mineral sunscreen a safer option, however, this is not a given as some chemical sunscreens may contain soothing ingredients. Whatever you choose stick to lightweight or water-based formulas for acne-prone skin.

No matter your skin type, it might take some trial and error to find the perfect match for you. However, here is what to look for ideally when choosing your sunscreen

  • Broad-spectrum

  • SPF 30 and above

  • Water-resistant and very water-resistant

Why You Need to Wear Sunscreen

Whether you are suffering from any skin condition or not, using sunscreen is a must, and here is why.

Prevents Skin Cancer

Overexposure to the sun's UV radiation is the predominant reason for the development of skin cancer. The three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are all caused by exposure to the sun. They most often develop in the areas of the body exposed to sunlight. Applying sunscreen regularly forms a protective barrier against these harmful radiations and reduces the risk of having any of these cancers.

Prevents Premature Aging

The external factors that cause the skin's premature aging include chronic exposure to the sun’s radiation, pollution, chemicals, and other environmental factors. UV rays break down collagen and elastin which the skin needs to maintain its elasticity and firmness. This leads to the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. These harmful rays equally destroy melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) causing hyperpigmentation. Applying sunscreen, therefore, helps to maintain youthful and brighter skin.

Prevents Sunburn and Skin Inflammations

Sunburn is caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight and causes exposed areas of the body to become inflamed, red, and painful to the touch. In severe cases, sunburn can cause blisters on the skin. Because UV rays destroy immune-protecting melanocytes, the skin becomes more prone to infections, free radical damage, and irritations. Wearing sunscreen helps prevent all of this by forming a protective barrier on the skin.

Sunscreen does not only serve as a sunblock but also as a moisturizer to cool down the skin when under the sun. A lot of sunscreens are formulated with hydrating, soothing, and moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, Aloe Vera, glycerin, panthenol, etc. to ensure the health of the skin's moisture barrier.

Prevents Sun-Sensitivity

For people dealing with sun-sensitive conditions, such as sensitive skin, lupus, and rosacea, wearing sunscreen is a real lifesaver. Wearing sunscreen regularly reduces exposure to UV rays that can lead to redness and burning in the skin and the overall severity of these conditions. It equally is an important step of a skincare routine, especially when using chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs) that increase sun sensitivity.

Types of Sunscreen

Continuous exposure to ultraviolet radiation throughout one's lifetime can lead to the development of skin cancer and weaken the skin's immune system. But also, these may account for frequent breakouts, and rapid skin aging as UV derails the proper function of the skin’s barrier.

Everyone needs to wear sunscreen, but you should keep in mind that all sunscreens are not the same. They vary in formulation, texture, and periods of coverage. Also, based on your lifestyle, and skin type sun protection needs may differ.

To choose the right sunscreen, you need to first understand how they function. There are two types of sunscreens; mineral sunscreen (physical sunscreen/sunblock) and chemical sunscreen. Each of them functions in different ways to protect against UV rays ;

Mineral Sunscreen

Also called physical sunscreen, this type of sunscreen uses one of two inorganic minerals to offer protection - zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

When applied to the skin they form a protective film that deflects UVA and UVB rays away from the surface of the skin. They tend to have a thicker consistency which allows them to sit on the skin. Mineral sunscreens do not get absorbed beneath the epidermis and work immediately after application.

This type of sunscreen is great for sensitive and acne-prone skin as both minerals are not irritant and non-comedogenic as opposed to some chemical sunscreens.

Chemical Sunscreen

When applied to the skin, chemical sunscreens penetrate the top layer of the skin and act in two ways. On one hand, they scatter 5-10% of the UV rays before they cause damage to the skin. And on the other hand filter UV rays and convert them into heat thus neutralizing them. They contain organic ingredients such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

Chemical sunscreens usually have a lighter texture, are easily absorbed by the skin, and are less likely to leave a white cast on the skin as compared to physical sunscreen. They are effective at protecting against both UVA and UVB rays and can be formulated with other compounds that increase antioxidant protection.

Essentially the best sunscreen is the one that works best for you be it physical or chemical. Both options offer the protection you need however each type comes with pros and cons you might want to be familiar with before making your choice.

Differences Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen

Mineral Sunscreen

Chemical Sunscreen

Texture: It is thick and sits on the skin.

Texture: It is lightweight and absorbs into the skin faster

Skin type: Best for sensitive and acne-prone skin. But all skin types are still suitable.

​Skin type: Works for all. Gel-based formulas are best for oily skin. Creamier formulas are best for dry skin.

​Irritation: Titanium and zinc-oxide sunscreens are non-irritant.

Irritation: These are known to cause stinging or irritations after being applied. Note that your skin has to build a tolerance to it.

Leaves a white cast. However, there are tinted options.

Does not leave a white cast.

Can be applied immediately before stepping out into the sun.

Needs to be applied at least 15 minutes before stepping out into the sun so that uniform coverage is ensured.

FAQs About Sunscreen

When Should I Apply Sunscreen?

Apply your sunscreen daily 15 - 20 minutes before stepping out of your home or before starting your daily activities indoors.

How Much Sunscreen Should I Apply?

For maximum protection apply an ounce or the equivalent of a shot glass to your whole body. For your face and neck only apply two fingers' worth of sunscreen, the equivalent of 1/4 of a teaspoon at each application.

What Does SPF Mean?

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) indicates how effectively sunscreen shields against UVB rays. For example, SPF 30 means sunburn occurs 30 times slower than without sunscreen. Experts recommend SPF 30 to 50 for optimal protection, with SPF 30 blocking 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocking 98%. Higher SPFs offer marginally more coverage. Regardless of SPF level, reapplication every 2 hours ensures maximum protection.

What SPF is Recommended When Selecting Sunscreen?

For the best coverage, the SPF value recommended is at least SPF 30. Anything below that will not be effective enough to protect you adequately.

What SPF is Best?

Although sun protection factor (SPF) is not the only metric to determine the effectiveness of sunscreen, choosing a high SPF value is still a recommendation for maximum protection. The “best” SPF you should go for is a sunscreen with SPF 50.

What Does Broad Spectrum Mean?

When selecting your sunscreen, make sure to pick one that is labeled as broad-spectrum. This means it will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

What Sunblock is the Best?

At the end of the day, there is no best sunscreen except for the one your skin will tolerate. Because of how complex sunblock formulations are, they may have different effects on various individuals. Whether chemical or mineral, lotion, stick or spray it doesn’t matter so long as your sunscreen is at least SPF 30 and offers broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.

How Often Should I Reapply Sunscreen?

Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2 hours whether indoors or not on all parts of the body exposed to sunlight. Reapply immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

Who Needs To Wear Sunscreen?

Everyone exposed to the sun needs to wear sunscreen including men, women, and children above 6 months. This is all skin tones and skin types included. A baby under 6 months has very sensitive skin that may react to sunscreen. Staying out of the sun; under-shaded structures and sun-protective clothing are the best ways to safeguard infants.

Water-resistant Sunscreen vs. Very Water-resistant

Water-resistant sunscreen can last up to 40mins in the water while very water-resistant sunscreen can last up to 80mins in water.


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