Wearing sunscreen is the best thing you can do for your skin. It protects it from cancer, and it helps to avoid UV damage that can cause sun spots and premature wrinkles, thus allowing you to age gracefully and look younger for longer.
All the anti-aging products on the market can only do so little if you forget to use sunscreen, and one of my biggest regrets is having included it in my skincare routine only in my middle 20s. Now, though, you’ll never find me without it. I wear it 365 days a year, even indoors! I’m not taking any chances!
But, with all the many options on the market, shopping for sunscreen can be daunting and confusing. Fret not. Here’s what you need to know before buying one:
1. Broad-spectrum protection
How many times have you reached for the sunscreen with the highest SPF available on the shelf, thinking that was sure to offer you all the protection you needed? Sadly, that’s not always the case. SPF rates only the degree of protection from UVB rays. So, even a SPF50 may still provide little or no protection against UVA rays, the type that causes premature aging and contributes to the development of cancer. Scary, isn’t it?
Instead than relying only on the SPF number, make sure you check out the label to see if it includes any of the following UVA filters: Avobenzone, Zinc Oxide, Mexoryl XS (aka Ecamsule), Tinosorb S (bemotrizinol) and Titanium Dioxide (offers only partial protection, so should be used with another of the ingredients mentioned here). If neither of these appear on the label, leave it on the shelf.
If remembering all these names is hard for you, just look for the UV seal (mostly used in Europe), or the PA (complete with plus signs) symbol (mostly used in Asia), on the label. US sunscreens that contain adequate protection from UV rays must simply be labelled “broad spectrum”.
2. SPF 15 or higher
Dermatologists recommend you use a SPF of at least 15 daily to protect your skin from UV rays. But, especially when the sun’s shining brightly in the sky and you’re gonna spend a lot of time outdoors, it can’t hurt to go a bit higher. You don’t need SPF 100 though. It doesn’t offer that much more protection than SPF 30, and can even create a false of security, making you think you won’t need to slather it on liberally and reapply it often. But, of course, you do.
If you sweat a lot, plan to play sports outside or go swimming in the sea, choose a water-resistant sunscreen. But don’t think that means the sunscreen will never wear off. Water-resistant simply means that the SPF level stays effective after either 40 or 80 minutes (check the label to be sure) in the water. After that, you’ll still have to reapply it.
4. Avoid spray-on formulas
Spray-on sunscreens are very convenient and can provide adequate protection if you apply enough. Problem is, that’s difficult to do. If you’re not careful, the sunscreen may end up on your towel rather than your leg, or, if there’s even a light breeze, be carried away and land on your neighbour. That doesn’t just leave parts of your skin unprotected, but it is also a waste of money.
5. Sensitive skin
If you have sensitive skin that’s prone to allergies and irritations, or are looking for a sunscreen for your child, opt for a zinc oxide based one. Zinc Oxide can, on its own, provide broad spectrum protection, and is very gentle on the skin. Also, pick one without alcohol, fragrance, or harsh preservatives. My favourite sunscreen for sensitive skin and children, which meet all these criteria, are Sunumbra Sunkids SPF 40 and Badger Balm Kids Sunscreen Cream SPF30.
6. Expensive doesn’t mean better
It’s not the price, but the active sunscreen agents and how liberally they are applied, that determines the effectiveness of a sunscreen. Because they must be slathered on generously, if you are on a budget, you may want to opt for a cheap product that fulfils all the requirements listed above.
Do you look for all these things when buying sunscreen? What is your favourite sunscreen?