So, first and foremost EVERYONE needs to be using a sunscreen daily. The sun emits two different types of ultraviolet rays that are very harmful: UVA and UVB. UVA also known as the aging rays do just that, they age you much more quickly than normal. UVB known as the burning rays are the cause of sunburns and suntanned skin and is also responsible for majority of skin cancer. UVA rays can penetrate through glass windows so it is very important to wear sunscreen even when inside the car or house during the day. Both types of ultraviolet rays are severely damaging to your skin. It is recommended that a broad spectrum SPF of 30+ at least is applied daily and reapplied every couple of hours as needed. Some believe SPF in their moisturizer is enough and that by using that alone is protecting them but that is not the case. While slightly better than using nothing at all, the SPF in moisturizer is usually very unstable and the amount used does not provide adequate protection from the harmful rays. It is recommended to use a moisturizer without sunscreen and then apply a stand alone SPF after. Preventing damage of the skin is much easier than trying to reverse the effects after it has already been done.
Now onto, the two types of sunscreens that you should know about; physical(inorganic) and chemical(organic). A physical sunscreen which is FDA approved, protects the skin by deflecting the suns rays while a chemical sunscreen protects by absorbing the rays. A physical sunscreen has always been photostable which means it does not lose it’s protection strength once coming in contact with UV rays, and now most of the chemical sunscreens are also photostable. With a physical sunscreen the main active ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, titanium dioxide can be problematic for some skin types and cause breakouts while zinc oxide tends to be more gentle and able to use on mostly everyone. Physical sunscreens start protecting immediately once applied, zinc oxide protects full spectrum UVB and UVA and titanium dioxide protects against UVB but not UVA. Chemical sunscreens that have active ingredients like avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate etc, have a tendency to be more irritating to the skin and can cause allergic reactions but it also has more coverage against UVA and UVB rays than a physical SPF, with that being said the range of protection a chemical sunscreen offers depends on the active ingredients used and their stability. Once you apply a chemical sunscreen you must wait 20 minutes after application for it to become effectively protective. Physical sunscreens usually are of thick nature, lack transparency and can be hard to apply and keep applied properly while chemical sunscreens are normally colorless, odorless and usually runny consistency. Since both have their pros and cons often our current sunscreens are formulated to contain both physical and chemical properties within one.
No ones skin is the same so you have to try out which sunscreen your skin tolerates and likes but some tips to remember is to find a sunscreen that is stable so that you get the most protection possible. Those with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are all photostable, and if your SPF does not contain avobenzone in the ingredients then it is most likely stable. Avobenzone can be stabilized if formulated with other filters such as octinoxate and octocrylene so look to see if those ingredients are present before dismissing it. Try to find a product that won’t be over your budget or a hassle to purchase. Most of all, find something that you actually want to put on your skin. If you hate the consistency and smell of a sunscreen then you won’t be as apt to use it as often as it should be used.