Written by Evlin Symon
Sunscreen is a product made in the form of lotion, gel, spray or cream that is responsible for absorbing the sun's ultraviolet radiation to protect the skin against sunburn and premature aging. Two types of UVs that damage your skin; UVA and UVB are an electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. When UV comes into contact with the skin, it exposes one to health risks such as skin cancer. You wear sunscreens to protect the skin against Ultra Violet rays. It does not mean if you wear the sunscreen you have complete protection the risks are still glaring. Many companies have emerged to offer lots of sunscreen choices to mitigate this problem.
Sunscreens combine several ingredients to help the skin fight UV radiation. However, there is a great concern on emerging products in the market. The question is should one abandon the use of safe sunscreens?
Applications of sunscreens
- Protects the skin from harmful effects of the sun
- Prevents sunburn
- Prevents premature aging such as wrinkles and leathery skin
- Decreases the risk of skin cancer or skin sensitivity caused by medications such as tetracycline
How sunscreen works?
Sunscreen products are topical, applied on the skin only in consultation with the pharmacist's or doctor. Apply sunscreens generously on the body 30 minutes before exposing your body to the sun. You can reapply after a swimming session or in cases where it is rubbed off as a result of sweating. When you wear the sunscreen, the active ingredients absorb or scatter light reflecting away from the body thus preventing the deep layers of the skin from harm. When you stay out for longer periods, it is essential to apply the sunscreen every 2 hours.
There are physical and chemical UV blockers. Physical blockers exist in powder form, they are insoluble and do not penetrate the skin example zinc oxide and titanium oxide. They are however safe to use although they leave a chalky film on the body. Chemical blockers absorb UV light with potentially harmful effects on the skin. The chemical blockers trigger free radicals that may cause skin damage and irritation. Other factors to consider are highlighted as follows;
A sunscreen should contain some basic elements;
- Ecamsule: blocks UVA rays
- Avobenzone: It blocks UVA but requires stabilizing.
- Oxybenzone: Absorbs UVB or short UVA rays. It is toxic to the reproductive system and normal development.
- Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide: for people with sensitive skins and babies. Reflects and scatters rays. It is a physical blocker to UV rays.
- Sulisobenzone: Protects the skin from damage by UVB or short UVA rays. Causes sun damage to the screen upon exposure to sunlight.
Sunscreen Protection Factor (SPF) determines how well the sunscreen protects the skin from UVB rays. SPF factor determines the number of UVB rays it can handle not the period of the exposure. Dermatologist recommends SPFs of 15 or 30. Although there are higher SPFs of 100 or 75, they do not offer significant protection against UVB compared to SPF 30. Depending on the skin type and sun's intensity applying SPF 15 gives roughly 150 minutes of protection. SPF 15 provides only 93%; SPF 30 provides 97% whereas SPF 50 provides 98% protection. It means your body still exposes to photons that cause harm to the skin. Sunscreens must pass critical wavelength test; it does not matter the SPF rating. Many of sunscreens do not offer protection against UV rays.
Water and sweat resistant
When exercising, sweating or swimming, you need a sunscreen that is water resistant.
Since kids have sensitive skins, avoid sunscreens with chemicals such as benzophenones, dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, and sulisobenzone. Most adult sunscreens contain chemicals.
A spray sunscreen is flammable therefore avoid smoking or applying when next to fire neither store it near heat or open flame. Take care when applying sunscreen to the face to prevent contact with eyes, in case; there is contact rinse thoroughly with clean water. Use sunscreen cautiously if you have sensitive skin or avoid it altogether. Infants aged 6 months and below have soft and delicate skin unless the doctor recommends it. Let them wear protective clothes instead of sunscreens. If you develop serious sunburns, seek medical attention.
Sunscreens whose ingredient include Zinc oxide mineral forms silt or clay particles when washed off. According to Environmental Working tests carried out on 1000 brand name sunscreens reveals 4 out of 5 have chemicals hazardous to your body.
Chemical-based sunscreens might trigger production of free radicals causing damage to the skin. Not all chemical based sunscreens are bad some have reasonable profiles. Adding an antioxidant formula reduces chances of skin damage. It is important to find out if the product is non-comedogenic meaning it has all natural ingredients absorbable to the skin. A sunscreen should have lower chances of causing skin allergies (hypoallergenic) too. You should therefore choose a sunscreen that does not pose any danger to your skin!