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How To Choose The Best Sunscreen

Sunscreens can be complicated to use! Numbers, star ratings, and words like "mineral," "zinc oxide," "organic," and "natural" are frequently used. What do these all imply, and which sunscreen is the best for you? I'll try to explain the terminology and dispel some myths about sunscreens.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB?

UVA, UVB, and UVC are the three types of radiation that the sun emits.

95% of the radiation that reaches the surface of the planet is UVA. Due to its longer wavelength, this type of light can pass through glass and clouds and can reach the skin more deeply than UVB rays. It has the potential to cause skin cancer and accelerates the ageing and pigmentation of the skin.

UVB rays: These rays cause skin to burn and get red. The bulk of skin cancers are caused by UVB rays even though they do not enter the skin as deeply.

UVC: This type, which has the shortest wavelength and is the most harmful, does not reach the earth’s surface since the atmosphere entirely filters it out.

Any easy way to remember is UVA= Ageing and UVB = Burning. However both can cause cancers.

What does the SPF number mean?

Every sunscreen will have a number on the label that is either preceded or followed by the letters SPF (sun protection factor). Keep in mind that the SPF only describes how well the sunscreen can filter UVB rays, not UVA. SPF ranges from 2 to 50 or more. The percentages show you how long it will take the skin to get red with sunscreen versus how long it will take skin to turn red without sunscreen. Therefore, if you have correctly applied an SPF 15, it would take 15 times longer for your skin to become red than if you had not applied any.

Applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to be in the sun for 150 minutes if your skin typically becomes red after 10 minutes in the sun. The length of protection increases with the number. SPF, however, is actually a measurement of the level of UVB ray protection it offers you and should not be used to estimate how much time you should spend in the sun.

About 3% of UVB can enter the skin through an SPF of 30, and about 2% through an SPF of 50. This might not seem like much, but for some skin types, it can mean a lot.

What is the difference between a physical, organic and chemical sunscreen? What do the ingredients mean?

The two most common forms of sunscreen on the market are.

Chemical sunscreens: These products are also referred to as synthetic or organic sunscreens. These are the most popular sunscreens, and they function by absorbing UV light and emitting it as heat. Among other substances, the following compounds will indicate a chemical sunscreen:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate


Chemical sunscreen seeps into the skin, which occasionally causes irritation. They should ideally be used 20 minutes before going outside. Most consumers like them because of their easier skin absorption and typically thinner texture. However, because of their chemical makeup, many kinds of sunscreens will quickly become ineffective in the presence of direct sunlight, necessitating frequent application.

Mineral sunscreen: Also known as physical sunscreens, these work by absorbing and then scattering or deflecting the UV radiation in addition to absorbing the UV light and releasing as heat. There two chemicals used:

  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc Oxide


As soon as they are applied, mineral sunscreens offer immediate UV protection. In the sun, they usually last longer, but sweat and water will wash them off. They cause less skin irritation. They leave a pale cast on the skin, making them frequently unattractive to those with darker complexion tones. Larger amounts are frequently necessary to provide effective protection.

Which sunscreen should I use?

The sunscreen that you will consistently and appropriately apply is the one that is best. Your skin type or the type of outdoor activity you’ll be doing will determine what kind of sunscreen you need. You can select from a range of sunscreen kinds, including:

Water resistant: Although they will need to be reapplied and are useful for usage during aquatic sports, no sunscreen is entirely waterproof.

Spray suncreen: Sprays are primarily applied for their convenience, but when used properly, they may not be as convenient as you might think. To use a spray, spray the skin until it appears wet, then rub it in with your hands. Additionally, they shouldn’t be sprayed straight onto the head or face. There are some worries about children inhaling the spray particles, but additional research is required to determine whether or not this is dangerous.

Sensitive skin: A mineral or physical sunblock is less irritant and suitable for those with sensitive or acne prone skin.

Natural sunscreens: Sunscreens labelled as natural tend to be mineral based therefore containing zinc or titanium. They are good for immediate protection.

Broad spectrum: This means that there is protection against both UVA and UVB. Therefore this should be part of any sunscreen you apply.

How much sunscreen should I apply?

All sunscreens should be applied every two hours, and more frequently if you sweat or have been in the water. I do not advise using a single application of any sunblock for the entire day, despite what some sunscreens claim.

Face and neck:  Half a teaspoon

Arms: One teaspoon

Legs: Two teaspoons

Front and Back of torso: Two teaspoons

What is the correct SPF for me?

I would suggest wearing at least SPF 30 if you intend to spend more than 15 to 20 minutes in the sun. However, if you have Type 1 skin, are extremely fair, have blue eyes, and are blonde, then SPF 50 will be necessary. Children older than 6 months old should use SPF 50 and babies younger than 6 months old should avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

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