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Making sense of sunscreen

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

We all need to wear sunscreen, so learn what you need to know to properly protect your skin.

Healthy beautiful skin
Taking care of your skin, leaves you to freely enjoy your life.

Sunscreen. It’s a topic that always comes up in each client’s skin consultation. Few clients fully understand its purpose, know which type is best for their skin and how to use it properly. Heading to a store only adds to the confusion as you try and make sense of the many options. So, which one is right for you?

Before I answer that, let’s back up and go over the basics. The purpose of sunscreen is to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UVA rays that age your skin and UVB rays that burn it. Your skin is exposed to UVA/UVB rays every day of every year, no matter what the weather conditions are. Few know that staying inside does not fully protect you, as UVA rays can penetrate clouds and the roof on your home.

The only way you can fully escape UVB rays is to live in a lead-lined or underground home. Some specialized glass can minimize or eliminate UVB rays, but once you resurface outside, they are waiting for you, regardless. The rays reflect off snow cover, water, sand, sea foam, car mirrors or any shiny surface. Hats can reduce the impact of the downward trajectory of the rays, but they can bounce off the ground and catch your skin under the rim.

Hats are helpful, but don't provide full proof protection.

UVB rays damage the connection between your top layer of skin and the underlying structure of your skin resulting in deep lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness. UVA rays penetrate all the way down to the birthplace of skin cells and can cause damage to the foundation of your skin. HEV (blue light radiation) from screens can cause damage deep within your skin structure, resulting in damage to collagen and elastin and hyperpigmentation.

My advice to my clients and loved ones is that if the streetlights are off, sunscreen should be on. It needs to be part of your daily routine and must be applied correctly – 20 minutes before exposure to ensure you are adequately protected. If you wait until you are outdoors to apply sunscreen, you probably have had too much exposure by the time it becomes effective.

Here are my top five additional things you need to know about sunscreen:

1. There are three types of sunscreens: physical, chemical, and a combination of physical and chemical. Physical sunscreen ingredients (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) lie on the surface of your skin and reflect the rays away. Chemical sunscreens interact on the surface of your skin to absorb and neutralize the rays.

2. SPF (sun protection factor) is a guide for how long a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays. A SPF factor of 30 is adequate for most skin types and SPF 15 for the thinner eye and lip surfaces.

3. The bone ridge around your eye is the boundary for any eye products. If you apply any closer, the heat of your eyes could draw it into the eye and cause irritation.

4. Follow the directions of your sunscreen. The lower the SPF, the more frequently you should reapply. If you have oily skin or are perspiring from exertion, the sunscreen can slide off your forehead, nose, chin, so reapply it appropriately.

5. To prevent recurring uneven skin tone or color, use a higher SPF factor – although I don’t recommend any SPF factor over 50. Higher SPF lotions tend to be chemical can have a negative impact on your skin cells, because they heat the surface of the skin to activate. The higher physical sunscreens can also appear white on darker skin tones.

Some sun exposure is important to metabolize vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium and build strong bones. If you are light skinned, you need less sun to metabolize vitamin D than a person with dark skin.

Both dark and light skin burn, which damages the epidermis or outer layers of skin. This is where most skin cancer occurs, so getting a sunburn increases your risk of developing dangerous skin cancer. Make sure to take note of sunscreen reapplication times, especially if you have light skin as it burns faster.

Sun exposure is something to be mindful and vigilant about – balancing enough exposure to metabolize vitamin D, but not cause damage to your largest organ. I urge you to protect your skin’s health by using sunscreen daily. As I always say, it’s easier to protect than to correct.

I’m happy to discuss your specific sunscreen concerns or needs. Go to to connect or schedule a skin care appointment.

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