The summer season is upon us, it’s time to slather on the sunscreen. In climates like NJ, the UV index and chance of getting burned are often extremely high, even on cloudy, overcast days. (Note to gadget heads: check out UV Monkey.) Many skin care experts are now recommending using a lower SPF (sun protection factor) product and applying it more frequently. Some premium skin care lines do not even offer sun protection products above 30 SPF. Let’s take a look at sunscreens and sunblocks to determine what is best to keep your face looking its youngest and freshest.
SPF refers to the amount of UVB (ultra-violet burning rays) protection a product has. Many people assume that the higher the number, the better. That’s not necessarily true. A product with an SPF of 15 will allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer than you would without sunscreen without getting burned. In products with SPF 30, you could stay in the sun 30 times longer.
When the time factor is removed, the difference in the actual amount of protection between SPF 15 and 30 is a lot less significant. According to the Mayo Clinic, an SPF of 15 filters out about 93 percent of UVB, while an SPF of 30 filters about 97 percent of UVB rays.
UVA (tanning) rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB and play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling. To protect from UVA as well as UVB, seeking out products that have the words “multi spectrum”, “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on the label is a good start. Projections on skincancer.org indicate, “To date, no criteria exist in the U.S. for measuring and labeling the amount of UVA defense a sunscreen provides. However, the FDA plans to introduce UVA standards within the next few years.” In the meantime, some combination of UVA-protective ingredients, such as avobenzone (Parsol 1789), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide is recommended.
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are known as “sunblocks” or physical/inorganic sunscreens. These ingredients work by reflecting, blocking or scattering the sun’s rays away from the skin. They are also less likely to cause allergic reactions and irritation than the chemical/organic ingredients like Parsol 1789 and oxybenzone. These chemical sunscreen ingredients work by forming a thin, protective film and absorbing UV radiation before it penetrates the skin.
When it comes to sunscreens for the face, be particularly vigilant about using products that work with your skin type. If you have oily, blackhead prone skin, stay away from known comedogenic (pore clogging) ingredients like lanolin, isopropyl myristate and coal tar derived D&C red dyes. For all skin types, it’s best to use sunscreens that are specially made for the face, or are from a good skin care line.
Do not rely solely on the SPF in your regular daily moisturizer for UV protection. Many skin care professionals feel that clients typically do not use enough moisturizer to be beneficial for adequate sun protection. Plus, they do not usually reapply their moisturizer throughout the day. For this reason, a layering approach is recommended. Use a daily moisturizer with a SPF, a full spectrum SPF 15 – 30 sunscreen, and top it off with mineral makeup or other makeup with additional SPF.