In previous posts, I’ve lightly discussed SPF and the importance of it, but I personally find this such an important step in any daily routine, I decided to have a closer look at it. Why do we really need sun protection? How much and how often should you be using it? Can you simply use a moisturizer with SPF or should you use a separate product?

Today, we’ll be looking to find an answer to all of these questions, as well as looking at the basics of sun protection and why it’s so important to be aware of the dangers of sun damage to your skin.

The Basics of SPF

Okay, so I have to admit I’m not the greatest example of using sun protection. I have very pale skin, and I used to avoid sunscreen because I wanted to grab any chance at a tan that I could. However, after looking a couple of things up, I found out that even if I was using tons of skincare products to help me maintain a glowing, healthy complexion, I might be ruining it all by not wearing sunscreen.

So if you’re like me, unsure of why the sun is so bad for us, let me break down the basics of sun damage and sun protection.

What is SPF?

The sun produces two types of ultraviolet (or UV) rays: UVA and UVB. UVB are the rays that will cause sunburn and skin cancer, and only penetrates the top layers of your skin. UVA however, goes much deeper than that in order to cause DNA damage, which in turn causes wrinkles and dark spots to appear.
SPF measures the amount of protection from UVB rays it will provide you, based on a simple math formula. Basically, you take how long it takes you to burn in the sun without protection, and multiply that by your SPF factor. If you burn after only 10 minutes in the sun, SPF 15 will extend that period to 2.5 hours (or 150 minutes).

Notice how I said UVB rays? That’s because SPF doesn’t take UVA into account. If you want to be protected from both UVA and UVB, you need to be choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen to minimize the chance of sun damage to your skin.

How Much Do I Need?

Dermatologists recommend using either SPF15 or 30. SPF30 will provide you protection from 97% of the harmful UV rays that are sent your way. Anything higher than this will not offer significantly more protection. To cover your entire body, you should be using about a shot glass worth of sunscreen. For your face and neck, half a teaspoon is recommended.

Now, you may be thinking that applying sunscreen in the mornings on sunny days will protect you enough, right? Wrong. The biggest tip I can give you is that if it’s light out, even if it is cloudy or the middle of winter, the sun is out too and is sending those harmful rays your way. Use sunscreen every day, year-round.

Another tip is that applying sunscreen once a day may work if you’ll be sitting inside all day, but if you are out and about, you should be reapplying every two hours at least. Apply liberal amounts, you can’t use too much, and take extra care to reapply after swimming or sweating. Even waterproof sunscreen will stop working after 40 minutes in the pool.

Types of Sunscreen

There are two main types of sunscreen. Both of these will provide you with the same amount of protection, and none is better than the other, but you may find one type is better suited for your skin type. It’s always important to keep your skin’s needs in mind when choosing a suitable sunscreen.

Synthetic Sunscreens

These sunscreens will absorb UV radiation in your skin before it does any damage, and take about 20 minutes to be fully absorbed into your skin and start working. The consistency of synthetic sunscreen tends to be a lot thinner than its mineral equivalent, and thus are better suited for oily and combination types, as well as for breakout prone skin since they won’t clog pores.

Waterproof sunscreens are usually synthetic, since they won’t leave a white sheen on your body when you’re swimming. Keep in mind that this type of sunscreen could irritate sensitive skin types, so if this is you, I would recommend going for a mineral equivalent.

Mineral Sunscreens

These sunscreens are usually formed of either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These substances will reflect UV rays away from your skin, kind of like a mirror. They will also start working as soon as they are applied, so no need to wait before you step out of the house.

Mineral sunscreens are also much less likely to cause irritation, making them much more suitable for sensitive skin types. However, keep in mind they could leave a white sheen on your face. This might not always be very visible, but take a photo with flash, and it will show up for sure.

You might also need a bigger amount of product to achieve the same effect that a synthetic sunscreen has, and because the consistency of mineral sunscreens is a bit thicker, it may be unsuitable for breakout-prone skin.

Sunscreen in Skincare

In terms of integrating a product with SPF into your daily routine, doing so will provide you with a good base protection layer you can continue building on throughout the day. If you already have an SPF in your moisturizer, you can reapply whenever you need it, or just every two hours as recommended.

Lots of products nowadays will offer SPF options of at least 15, although SPF30 is recommended. Keep in mind that any protection you use is still a lot better than using nothing at all.

The best way to include sun protection in your daily skincare routine is by using a moisturizer with SPF. When choosing a product, keep in mind that you want to use something that offers broad-spectrum SPF in order to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Also, make sure you’re using a product that is specifically formulated for facial use and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.

Foundations or primers that include an SPF are fantastic options too, and will only add onto that base layer of protection against harmful UV rays. You can’t protect your face too much!

What About Tanning?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but what about my tan? A tan is something that many of us strive to achieve in summer, but did you know that having a tan is basically a sign of sun damage?

The UV rays from the sun cause your skin to make more of a substance called melanin, which will prevent the penetration of UV rays into deeper skin layers. A tan is basically your body trying to protect you from more harm.

Lighter skin tones will burn, caused by increased blood flow to damaged skin cells, while darker skin tones will only get darker, but it causes an increase in melanin either way. The best way to protect your skin is to not tan at all, but if you really want to, do it in a controlled manner by using a sunscreen to minimize the damage the sun will do.

Bringing It All Together

If you are not using sunscreen daily, year-round, this is your wake-up call to start doing it now! The harmful UV rays the sun produces will damage your skin, which will lead to premature ageing and skin cancer. There are so many great options out there for you to use, there’s really no excuse not to.

Whatever skin tone or type you are, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen to be protected from both UVA and UVB rays, and use at least SPF15 or 30. Anything higher won’t give you significantly more protection.

Use mineral based sunscreens if you have sensitive skin, or choose a synthetic one if you are prone to breakouts. Moisturizers with SPF will provide a great base layer of protection, but if you’re out and about, you should still be reapplying every two hours at least.

Choose a product that is specifically formulated for your face, and opt for non comedogenic, dermatologically tested sunscreens.

Remember, you only have one skin, protect it!

Do you use a sunscreen every single day? What do you think about tanning and harmful UV rays?

Keep glowing!

Melanie