Published on February 22nd, 2016 | by Yashodhara Ghosh
Matter of SPF
With the summers starting to take over, it’s time to up your sunscreen game. Here’s a guide to choosing the right sunscreen…
While the dusty summer is a motley experience for all, it can only spell one thing for your skin: doom. Now more than ever is it a cardinal sin to step out of home without a reasonably thick coat of sunscreen pasted on your face. Now more than ever is it imperative for you to replenish that coat every few hours, each time sweat wipes it off. So if you’ve been cheating on your sunscreen routine out of ignorance or sheer laziness, here’s what you need to know. If Baz Luhrman made it fashionable to wear sunscreen in the 90’s (remember Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen?), studies linking the notorious UVA and UVB rays to skin cancer have practically elevated sunscreen to a religion in the next decade. And with good reason too: the rays – even if they don’t give you cancer – are the chief causes for sun damage, manifested as sun spots, leathery aged skin and freckles.
Learn your rays
Ultraviolet radiations are of different two wavelengths: referred to as UVA and UVB rays. Both cause permanent, irreversible damage to your skin. UVA rays are relatively less potent, but they are all-pervasive: no matter what the time of day or month of year, these invisible rays are bearing down on you, penetrating your skin. Windows and clothes fail to shield you from them. Studies have shown that they damage keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, where skin cancer originates. UVB rays aren’t present in all the sun’s radiation, but they are biologically more active, and the chief cause of sunburn and skin cancer. They are present in the sun’s radiation at specific times of day and year, depending on your latitude. In high altitudes or near reflective surfaces like snow and ice, these rays hit your skin harder.
- So while UVB rays are more potent, UVA rays are attacking your skin incessantly. Together, they spell damage with a capital D. And your only weapon against them is sunscreen, or good old sunblock. Blocks contain ingredients like Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide. They create a protective sheathe around your skin, which deflect the rays right back into the atmosphere. Sunscreens contain chemicals like benzophenones, cinnamates and walicylates, which neutralise and absorb the harmful rays. Both functions are equally important and these days you’ll find that a single product contains both these categories of chemicals.
- Now that you sunscreen agnostics have (hopefully) been converted to believers, the next stumbling block is the word SPF. If you’ve been ambushed by salesmen trying to lure you with higher SPFs, keep calm and don’t be fooled. Sun protection factor gives an indication of the relative time for which the product will protect your skin from sun damage. So if you’re wearing SPF20, it will take your skin 20 times longer to be damaged by the UVA and UVB rays, than if you hadn’t bothered to apply any.
- It is crucial that you understand this: SPF 100 does NOT give double the protection as SPF 50. Beyond say SPF 30, higher SPFs make negligible difference. An SPF 15 gives you 93 % protection, while SPF 30 gives only 4 % more. SPF 50 improves only a measly 1 % more, at 98. So instead of spending hundreds more on high SPF sunscreens, we suggest you opt for anything between SPF 20 and 30, and make sure that you keep re-applying it every 2 hours or so. And always give your skin 10-15 minutes to absorb the sunscreen before stepping out.
Have a great summer!
BioBloom Sunscreen & Day Protect Lotion: Made out of only natural ingredients, this lotion protects the skin from external aggression and provides the daily requirement of protein and Vitamin E to the skin. It protects the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, and slows down the skin’s ageing. CLICK HERE to view product.
Avene Very High Protection Spray SPF 50+: Its photoprotective complex is optimised, stable and effective for extended periods. It offers the best protection against UVB and also short and long UVA rays; Pre-tocopheryl, a vitamin E precursor (powerful anti-oxidant) protects the skin cells from free radicals. CLICK HERE to view product.
Natio Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30: This daily defence formula is the winner of Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards: Best Facial Sun Protection, 2011 and provides broad spectrum protection against harmful UVA and UVB rays. Ultra-light, moisture-rich hydrating sunscreen – non-greasy and water resistant for up to four hours. CLICK HERE to view product.