A GUIDE TO SUNSCREEN, SPF, UVA & UBV
Summer calls for longer days and memorable moments, including sunning ourselves on the beach, picnicking with friends and family, and enjoying time by the pool. While we may be enjoying the warmer weather, it also means we are spending more time in the sun than we would at any other time of year.
Prolonged sun exposure calls for a change in your usual makeup and skincare regime – with sunscreen application being a given. To understand how long sunscreen lasts and the best face sunscreen for your skin type, read on.
What is sun damage?
Sun damage can be caused without warning and describes any sort of impact brought to the skin via direct overexposure to sun and UV light. It usually appears on the skin in the form of freckling, skin darkening, uneven skin pigmentation, fine lines, spider veins and in serious cases, skin cancer. Also known as photoaging, photodamage, or solar damage, sun damage occurs when ultraviolet (UV) light reflects onto skin that is not protected by sunscreen. The effects of sun damage can build over time, and without protection can cause visible and long term changes.
What is UVA and UVB?
When it comes to ultraviolet (UV) light – the unseen radiation produced naturally by the sun – there are two types of wavelengths that can damage the skin. The first is known as Ultraviolet A, or UVA. UVA can cause signs of ageing, as UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin to promote premature skin ageing changes, such as increased wrinkle formation and a reduction in skin elasticity.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) is associated with sunburn and plays a large role in skin cancer formation – in its most serious form, malignant melanoma. Overexposure can also lead the skin to become darker or tanned, as the amount of melanin produced in the skin is further increased. And while there are approximately 500 times more UVA rays in sunlight than UVB rays, traditional sunscreens tend to focus mostly on blocking UVB rays, leaving skin exposed to premature ageing if not properly protected.
What is SPF?
You may see the term “SPF 50+” on the side of many sunscreen products, but what does it actually mean?
SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor” – measuring the ability to protect the skin from UVB rays. Whether the sunscreen is SPF50 or SPF30, the higher number does not mean it protects the skin for longer, instead it speaks to the higher percentage rate of rays it can block. When applied properly, SPF30 sunscreen allows only 3.3% of UVB rays to reach the skin, while SPF50 sunscreen allows only 2% of UVB rays to reach the skin. While this may not sound like much of a difference, it truly will add up over a lifetime of sun exposure.
How long does sunscreen last on the skin?
In general, sunscreen will protect your skin for at least two hours. However, when you introduce factors such as sweat and water, the timeline narrows. This is why you should apply sunscreen liberally and frequently, especially if you have just gone for a run or swim.
It’s also important to note that a higher SPF sunscreen does not last longer – an SPF30 sunscreen will last just as long as an SPF50 sunscreen.
The two types of sunscreen, and who should use them
There are two types of sunscreens available that fight to reduce damage caused by the sun. These are mineral sunscreens, and chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens: This formula acts very much like a sponge, sinking into the skin and absorbing UV rays released by the sun. They are thinner and easier to spread and remain invisible on the skin. However, chemical sunscreens can take some time to become effective in the sun. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to be careful around chemical sunscreens, as they may exacerbate existing skin conditions.
Mineral sunscreens: Mineral sunscreens sit on the skin to create a shield that reflects harmful UV rays. These sunscreens tend to contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which leave a sheen on the skin, and because they sit on the skin rather than becoming absorbed into it, they can be at the mercy of water and sweat, requiring frequent reapplication. Mineral sunscreens are the best sunscreen for sensitive skin, since the sunscreen sits on the skin and is not absorbed.
Which is the best everyday face sunscreen? It really depends on your preference, and you may need to try a few to find one that best works with your skin type. For example, if you are looking for the best sunscreen for oily skin, it’s wise to choose a sunscreen with a gel base, as these have a drying effect and do not make the skin look greasy.
Working sunscreen into your skincare routine
A facial moisturiser containing SPF15+, like our Hydra Zen Anti-Stress Cream should be a mainstay within your skincare routine. The best facial sunscreens tend to be lightweight, noncomedogenic, and enriched with moisturisers and antioxidants. An all-day foundation with added SPF like the Teint Idole Ultra Wear Stick Foundation is also recommended, granting your skin even further protection from the sun.
It is also worth considering pairing your sunscreen products with a restorative serum, such as the Advanced Génifique Face Serum, which contains Vitamin C to boost radiance and prebiotic fractions to rebalance the skin’s microbiome.
When it comes to sunscreen, it’s always best to wear it year-round, especially in Australia, where we have some of the highest UV indexes in the world. For all round protection, remember to wear sunscreen under makeup at all times, and reapply if needed.
ENow that you know all there is to know about sunscreen and how long SPF30 and SPF50 lasts, read our next article on how to Find the Best Anti-Ageing Serum for Your Skin.