Sunscreen is the most important product in your skincare routine. PERIOD. It protects your skin from sunburns, premature aging, dark spots, uneven skin tones, and worse. With this magical product comes questions (lots of them!), which is why I decided to dedicate this blog to answering some frequently asked questions on all things sunscreen!
How Do Sunscreens Work?
Sunscreens work by using active ingredients that absorb, scatter, or reflect the UV radiation before it reaches the skin. Physical particles, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are used to reflect UV radiation from the skin. Complex chemical ingredients react with radiation before it penetrates the skin, absorbing the rays and releasing the energy as heat. By filtering out harmful UV rays, broad-spectrum sunscreens help to reduce the harmful effects of the sun.
What Does “Broad Spectrum” Mean?
A sunscreen that has “Broad Spectrum” labeled on the packaging means it provides UV protection across both the UVB and UVA wavelength ranges. What is UVB and UVA? UVB rays are responsible for sunburns. UVB radiation covers the wavelength range between 290 and 320 nanometers, and UVA radiation is between 320 and 400 nanometers. UVA rays are responsible for causing premature aging, winkles, dark spots, and so on. UVA rays can pass through windows, which is why I highly recommend wearing sunscreen all of the time.
Bottom line? Only buy sunscreen with a “Broad Spectrum” label!
What Is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF of a sunscreen is a measurement of the effectiveness of a sunscreen product against sunburn. It indicates how long a person can be exposed to UV radiation before getting sunburned with sunscreen applied, compared to how long they can be exposed before getting sunburn without sunscreen.
What Do The Numbers After SPF Mean?
I assumed this would be your next question. The numbers indicated on your sunscreen, such as SPF 50, tell you how long it would take for UV radiation to burn your skin when you’re out in the sun, as long as you’re using the sunscreen exactly as directed on the label. It’s always best to choose a higher SPF because this will increase the time it takes for your skin to burn while in direct sunlight. I highly recommend using SPF 40 and above! Higher the better.
Reminder: Regardless of the protection factor, you need to re-apply frequently depending on the activity you’re doing/the intensity of sun you’re exposed to! I recommend reapplying every two hours or less!
How Should I Properly Apply Sunscreen?
To keep it short, sunscreen should be a part of your daily skincare routine! Don’t leave the house without applying it on your face and whatever skin is exposed, even on a cloudy day. For my face, I usually mix it into my moisturizer to ensure that I’m not missing any spots, and it’s much easier to spread around! I would recommend applying it at least 15 minutes before leaving so that it has enough time to properly absorb into your skin.
Should I Use A Different Sunscreen For My Face?
Yes! Yes! Yes! Sunscreens for the face are formulated differently than sunscreens for the body. They are designed to feel lighter, more easily absorbed, and to tailor to any skin concerns you may have! Check out this list for some amazing face sunscreen recommendations!
How Are Sunscreens Regulated?
Sunscreens are regulated by the FDA. Sunscreen products must be proved to be both safe and effective and must comply with all other requirements listed in FDA's over the counter sunscreen monograph. Individual active ingredients are reviewed by the FDA and only those that are identified in the monograph can be used in sunscreen products marketed in the U.S.
When Is The Right Time To Wear Sunscreen?
The right time is all of the time! No matter what time of the year or if you plan on staying inside (unless you’re in a windowless room), the sun emits harmful UV rays like it’s its damn job.
Can I Use The Sunscreen I Bought Last Year? When Should I Replace It?
Since I, and dermatologists, highly recommend using sunscreen everyday, a bottle shouldn’t last long. However, the FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years. Sunscreens also have expiration dates on their product or packaging, so definitely keep an eye out for those! If for some reason it doesn’t or you threw out the packaging, look for visible signs that the sunscreen is expired, such as changes in the color or consistency.
If I missed any questions you may have, DM us on Instagram and I (or my team) will get back to you! I hope this blog motivates you to continue, or start, wearing sunscreen on a daily basis. Cheers to skin protection, queens.
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