Sunscreen is the most important part of any skincare routine, whether it’s ten or two steps long, yet it is often overlooked or reserved only for summer months. There is something satisfying about a product that covers a lot of bases. It acts as a protective bubble stopping damaging ultraviolet light reaching your skin and allowing your other products, like vitamin c, to work effectively. The right one will prevent premature ageing as well as help hyperpigmentation fade and most importantly reduce your chances of skin cancer. Speak to anyone who knows skincare and they will tell you “wear sunscreen”. There is a broad spectrum (pun intended) of sunscreens available so knowing which one to go for can be difficult. Being the most important protective and preventive step, you don’t want to go wrong and risk your skin being damaged or irritated as a result. So here are a few answers to some common sunscreen questions to help guide you.
What level of protection to go for?
Always go for minimum Spf 30+. UVA light is responsible for burning skin and UVA is responsible for skin ageing, so look for UVA and UVB protection which is sometimes labelled as “broad spectrum” or “PA++++” depending on where the sunscreen is from.
Chemical or Mineral?
Choosing whether to wear mineral or chemical sunscreen is often down to preference and sometimes sunscreens will have both mineral and chemical protective components. The way chemical and mineral sunscreens protect your skin are different and understanding how is often a helpful way of deciding which is for you.
There’s a variety of chemical compounds which can be found in chemical sunscreens, the most common being oxybenzone. The protective element of mineral sunscreen comes from titanium oxide and zinc oxide. Mineral sunscreen works by reflecting the Sun’s rays at the skin surface while chemical sunscreen works by penetrating the skin and absorbing the UV rays and other free radicals, dissipating the energy as heat (hence why it can cause irritation). This means if your skin is inflamed or you have an inflammatory skin condition, such as acne, opting for mineral sunscreen can be a better option. Additionally, mineral sunscreen with iron oxide has been found to block visible light and prevent the exacerbation of hyperpigmentation. So if you suffer from melasma or PIH, mineral sunscreen is the one to go for.
When to wear it?
Always apply sunscreen as the final step in your AM skincare routine all year round. Wear sunscreen whether you are going outside or not! Most windows do not block UVA rays which penetrate the skin causing photoageing. Being diligent with sunscreen application is extra important if you use retinoids or chemical exfoliants in your routine, which make skin more sensitive to the sun. Mineral sunscreen is immediately effective while it takes roughly 30 minutes for chemical sunscreen to kick in.
How much to wear?
Apply half a teaspoon of proper sunscreen (moisturisers and foundations do not provide enough protection unless explicitly stated) to face neck and ears. This is roughly two fingers length worth. Reapply if you are active and sweating throughout the day.
What are some other factors to consider when buying?
The most important characteristic of a sunscreen is that you feel comfortable wearing it everyday, it sits on the skin well and doesn’t cause breakouts or irritation. Look for formulas that compliment your skin type, this may be trial and error because everyone’s skin is different. A rule of thumb to avoid unnecessary irritation is to pick a fragrance free formula.
Titanium and zinc oxide often leave a whitecast especially on darker skin tones so make sure to read reviews; tinted sunscreen can be a way around this. Korean skincare has much more advanced sunscreen technology in terms of reduced white cast, texture and application because sun protection has been a staple in korean skincare for years. It’s a good place to start when looking for effective daily sunscreen products.
Another important thing to consider is whether your sunscreen is “reef safe”. Chemical sunscreen has been found to damage coral but mineral sunscreen doesn’t seem to have a negative affect. If you are using sunscreen at the beach, keep this in mind.