By now, you’re likely well-versed in the essentiality of sun protection. Sunscreen is my number one skincare mandate (Every. Single. Day.) The sunscreen lexicon is ever-expanding, so I’ve collated a few notes below to help you distinguish between the different forms of sun protection, and decode the labels.
Chemical Sunscreen is a variant of sunscreen that employs chemical agents to protect against the sun. Chemical agents absorb UV light within the skin and dissipate it as heat energy. Chemical sunscreen is often best suited to sensitive, dehydrated, dry and mature skin types. It sits nicely under make-up, too.
Physical Sunscreen is a variant of sunscreen that works like a surface layer, coating the skin to physically deflect, scatter and block the UV light from skin. Physical sunscreens are best suited to those that struggle with congestion and inflammation as they are non-comedogenic, or those of us who suffer with redness as no heat is absorbed into the skin (which may aggravate flushing). If you prefer physical sunscreen, you need to be more considered with your application, as it will sit on top of your skin – so if you have been swimming, or you’ve just finished a sweaty gym class, it’s likely your sunscreen has been completely washed away.
UVA/UVB protection: The sun emits two types of rays: Ultra Violet A and Ultra Violet B. UVA rays are responsible for the premature ageing of skin, while UVB rays cause sunburn and skin cancer.
Broadspectrum protection: Broadspectrum refers to sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. Legally, a broadspectrum product must provide UVA protection that is proportional to it’s UVB protection to pass strict sunscreen regulations. It is crucial to opt for a sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB radiation.
Aerosol: sunscreen refers to sunscreen that is applied in the form of a spray. It has become increasingly popular due to it’s ‘simple’ means of application, however I advise against using these. Uneven, sloppy, incorrect and under application is far too easy when using aerosol sunscreens. The Cancer Council strongly advises against using it.
SPF: SPF denotes the sun protection factor of a product. Simply put, it refers to the percentage of UVB rays blocked by sunscreen. SPF15+ allows you to be in the sun 15 times longer than it would normally take for you to burn without sunscreen, and so on. Some people incorrectly presume SPF works as a layering system, though this is certainly not the case. For example, if you apply a sunscreen with SPF50+, a moisturiser with SPF15+ and a foundation with SPF30+,
SPF: SPF denotes the sun protection factor of a product. Simply put, it refers to the percentage of UVB rays blocked by sunscreen. SPF15+ allows you to be in the sun 15 times longer than it would normally take for you to burn without sunscreen, and so on. Some people incorrectly presume SPF works as a layering system, though this is certainly not the case. For example, if you apply a sunscreen with SPF50+, a moisturiser with SPF15+ and a foundation with SPF30+, this does not equate to SPF95+. Always opt for SPF 50+ where possible, and don’t bother with anything less than SPF30+. If you see sunscreen brazenly emblazoned with anything over SPF50+, avoid it! This level of sun protection is not possible, nor is it recognised by strict government regulations. SPF50+ is the highest form of sun protection.
And remember… it’s likely you are applying way less sunscreen than you actually need to adequately protect yourself from the sun. As a very rough guide, an average size adult requires a full teaspoon of sunscreen for their face and neck, and another seven to eight teaspoons for the rest of their body! Don’t forget to ensure you’re applying in frequently overlooked spots, like between the eyebrows, behind your neck, around your eyes, up into your hairline and the back of your hands. Lastly, UV rays break down the ingredients in sunscreen, meaning the maximum SPF efficacy remains steady for only an hour or so. Apply liberally and frequently, and try to stay in the shade or away from direct sunlight if possible. Sun protection is an uphill battle – but a worthwhile one at that.