Have you ever felt sorry for your skin at the mention of wearing something bare and then going out on a bright sunny day with no protection? I know I have. But before you say those are light skin problems you may want to consider that the sun knows no shade. No pun intended. When those UVA and UVB rays come hitting your skin, under the guise of getting you sunkissed just know the sun is destroying your skin barrier, causing sunburns, redness, hyperpigmentation and exposing you to skin cancer
I suppose you may have thought that melanin helps in this battle. Well, you’re right. However, there’s only so much melanin can do to absorb the UV rays which are known to cause photoaging and melanoma, a type of skin cancer. A fact is that people with a lighter skin tone will often show more signs of sun damage than people with a deeper tone. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that the damage doesn’t occur. This is why it would not be wise to keep on overtaxing your melanin just because somebody said black doesn’t crack. The truth is, it does and is worse because the signs appear later when the damage cannot be salvaged.
Check out 5 skincare myths you need to unsubscribe from
That said, first let’s look at the benefits of sunscreen
- It prevents premature wrinkles
Not many people say this, but the product you should want to choose if stuck on an island is sunscreen. Why? Because aside from keeping your skin protected against sunburns, sunscreen will also prevent premature wrinkles and fine lines which tend to occur due to photoaging. Often, aside from the fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage on darker skin tones manifests in form of large pore size and patchy spots. This is why you want to take your sunscreen application seriously, – regardless of skin colour, or otherwise, your skincare products will often be ineffective.
2. Prevents skin cancer
Tanning is all fun and fancy until it isn’t. Being out in the sun, with no sunscreen to protect your skin, leaves it exposed to ultraviolet rays which increase the chance of developing skin cancer. Therefore, if you already have a tan, do not forego sunscreen under the assumption that the tan will protect the skin. In fact, the opposite is true. Tanning is a sign of sun damage caused when melanin reacts to the sun. Instead, apply sunscreen products that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as they’re effective in blocking UV rays.
Again if you must tan, consider self-tanning products rather than tanning directly from the sun.
Chemical sunscreens vs physical ones
Now, there are two types of sunscreens you can use; chemical or physical/mineral sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens blend naturally and do not leave a white residue. This makes them skin and tone friendly to people with melanin-rich skin. Chemical sunscreens also contain avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate or oxybenzone as the active ingredients and thus they work by absorbing the rays and converting the UV light to heat. This is opposed to physical sunscreens which contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the main ingredients. Physical sunscreens often leave a white cast because they sit on top of the skin so they can block the light and UV rays. Nevertheless, they are very beneficial especially for darker skin tones, because they deflect the heat which worsens hyperpigmentation.
You should know that nowadays, many mineral/physical sunscreens (like the aforementioned) are micro-ionised so that they don’t leave a white cast on darker skin types. An example is the Holika Holika Aloe soothing essence sun gel which I use. After applying it, I can see a subtle white cast that fades almost instantly before I even get to apply my foundation or whatnot. However, if you’re wary of mineral sunscreen, consider chemical sunscreens as they’re not visible on darker skin tones.
3. Keeps your complexion even
If you don’t experience sunburns, the next thing the sun will do is leave you with a shade that doesn’t match your natural skin tone. An uneven tone could be compared to a tan only that it’s unwanted. Therefore to prevent this, always wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, minutes before stepping out into the daylight.
4. Promotes the effectiveness of your products
So you have gone right ahead and splurged on your favourite skincare products and even spent some cash on a facial. After a few months of using the products, your skin seems to change but at the same time, you can’t help but wonder if the anti-ageing products do deliver on their part. What could be the problem, you ask? The answer is simple. Either you are not applying any sunscreen or you are doing it incorrectly.
When you fail to apply sunscreen, all the moisturisers, serums and essences fail to deliver their optimum results because they keep on correcting the damage caused instead of preventing it. This is why it’s safe to say that the most effective anti-ageing treatment you could ever have is sunscreen. Then an eye cream just in case.
How to apply sunscreen correctly
It is one thing to apply sunscreen on your skin but another to do it correctly. According to research and consultations from dermatologists, the following are some of the ways you can optimise your sunscreen application.
- Apply sunscreen on every exposed area of your skin 30 minutes before leaving the house. This will allow the product to be absorbed and hence to work effectively. For emphasis’ sake, pay extra attention to the eye area, your hands and invest in a lip balm for obvious reasons.
- Hats, caps and facemasks with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), will limit the amount of UV rays absorbed into the skin. However, this protection is still limited. Non-UPF clothes on the other hand can only provide up to SPF 7 which drops down to 3 whenever you sweat. With this in mind, it is wise to wear sunscreen whether you have a mask/hat on or not.
- Be consistent with your application. Just like you never forget your moisturisers, sunscreen should never take the back seat even if technically, it’s applied at the last step.
- Regardless of the weather, whether cloudy, rainy or windy, as long as it is day know that UV rays await. Therefore always wear your sunscreen, whenever except at night.
- I know effective sunscreen gels, lotions, sticks and essences usually cost a lot yet they come in small tubes. But a fact is just like the weather shouldn’t determine sunscreen application, no activity should. Whether you’re swimming, going to the gym, travelling or just sun basking, it is important to have your sunscreen on. Needless to say, the frequent application will impact your spending, but the protection you will get will be worth every penny.
- Reapply your sunscreen after every 2-3 hours to keep your skin protected. If you already have makeup on and you’re wondering how to reapply your sunscreen with finesse, consider investing in a cushion compact or sunscreen mist. Cushion compacts come in form of powder or foundation but with SPF 30 and above. When reapplying, all you need to do is press and pat just like you would when retouching your look.
- If you’re out in the sun for more than an hour, apply sunscreen with no less than SPF 50 and PA++++. Keep reapplying every 2 hours, especially if you’re sweating or in contact with water. The PA+ in sunscreens represent the strength of UVA protection where PA++++ is the highest. I always opt for the highest UVA protection, because it gives me confidence that I’m protected. To know more about what I use, check out a breakdown of my Korean 10 step skincare routine
Look at the ways you can make your sunscreen less effective even without realising it
Here is A Beginner’s Guide To Applying Skincare Products In The Right Order
7 Myths About Sunscreen That You Should Ignore
Skincare: Hyperpigmentation – Causes, Prevention And Treatment
7 Places You’re Forgetting To Apply Sunscreen