SUMMER BEAUTY SERIES (I): SPF DECODED

In this part of our summer beauty series we turn our gaze to SPFs and the most important facts to factor in when protecting your precious skin.

It is common knowledge that a daily sunblock is essential (No matter what your skin colour, or skin tone). However, we are confronted with an ever-growing sea of options, each with a different SPF count and/or unpronounceable ingredients. So how do you determine which formula is right for you? 

Chemical vs Physical
Know: Chemical sunscreens have ingredients that absorb UV light, turn it into heat and prevent it from passing into the skin. Physical sunscreens have ingredients that create a layer on the skin and reflect UV light away from it. 

How to find out: Look at the list of active ingredients. If they end in “enzone” (oxy, avo, e.g.), it’s chemical. Ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide mean it’s physical.  

What’s works best: It is mainly personal but keep in mind that many chemical blockers also contain physical ingredients, but if you have extremely sensitive skin or a condition like rosacea or eczema should opt for a 90 or 100 percent physical formula.

What Exactly Is SPF
Know: An SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number indicates how long a person wearing the sunblock can stay in the sun without burning. For instance, with an SPF 30 you could stay in the sun for 30 minutes.

How to find out
: Look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” — that means they protect against both UVA (cancer-causing) and UVB (sunburn-causing) rays. Most dermatologist would recommend at least an SPF 30 or even higher. Especially since most of us apply less than half the amount of sunscreen recommended and therefore the SPF gets diluted out, so starting with a higher SPF can compensate for a less than perfect application. 

What works best
: It depends on your skin type but if you are sun-sensitive (which is not dependant on your skin colour)  or tend to burn easily (blondes, redheads and people with blue eyes) an SPF 50 is a minimum.

Application Matters
Know: When it comes to sunscreen how you apply it matters. Physical sunscreens are effective immediately upon application. Chemical sunscreens require at least 20 minutes to fully absorb. 

How to find out: The rule of tumb is for the body, apply at least a shot-glass-size portion of sunscreen and, for the face, a tablespoon. Reapplication is key, ideally every two hours (more if you’re swimming or sweating). Chemical blockers lose their effect as they continue to react to sunlight, and physical blockers will clump,.

What works best 
: Correct application also depends on what type of sunscreen;cream, spray, stick. On the body, sprays should be held one to two inches from the skin, sprayed until the area glistens and then rubbed in. Sticks should be applied back and forth for four passes on the same area. Creams tend to be a bit thicker than sprays so consider starting with a cream and use a spray for reapplication. 

Turbo SPF 
Know
: Many sunscreens have updated their formulas with skin-care ingredients, anti-oxidants and vitamins. So you can help protect the skin and minimize the effects of free-radical damage.
 
What to Do: Look for sunblocks that work hard and include vitamines and antioxidants which decrease free-radical damage from the sun.

Protect Sensitive Areas
Know
: It is easy to forget sensitive areas that burn easily like the scalp, lips and right around. The lower lip especially is at risk for UV damage and the development of skin cancers.

What to Do
: For the scalp wear a hat, or use an SPF gel or spray. For the lips and area around the eyes wear sunglasses and carry an SPF stick with you for a constant top up. 

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