Using the right sunscreen, the right way: Dr. Anuja Vaidya-Lathi explains
We all know that it is essential to apply sunscreen before stepping out of the house. But not all of us know about the nuances of a sunscreen composition. Also, you might not always pick the right type of sunscreen for the purpose. Know that there are different types of sunscreen, and choosing the right one determines the success of obtaining the intended skin protection. Knowing how to use sunscreen and also the various applications of the different types of sunscreen are all as crucial as learning about the benefits of sunscreen.
Dr. Anuja Vaidya-Lathi, an expert dermatologist with over a decade of experience in the field, has plenty of valuable information to offer about sunscreens. In this article, she tries to answer all the common questions about sunscreens and their uses as well as how to pick them.
Why is sunscreen needed?
When you step out of the house, depending on the clothes you wear, there are different parts of the body exposed to sunlight. The exposed skin can be harmed by the harsh rays of the sun. The ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight are known to be dangerous to the skin. Shielding the skin from exposure to UV rays will be important to prevent skin damage.
The following are the benefits of sunscreen that everyone should know about-
- Eliminate skin damage and the various physical implications of it occurring from UV exposure.
- Reduce sunburn that is characterised by redness and itchiness. Besides feeling hot, the skin might also be sore or develop blisters due to sunburn. A good sunscreen can prevent this.
- Effective prevention of photo allergies or allergic reaction to exposure to bright sunlight.
- Reduce pigmentation and also prevent pigmentation spots occurring due to overexposure to sunlight.
- Good sunscreens protect the skin from premature ageing and visible signs like fine lines and wrinkles.
- In the long run, sun damage can lead to several types of skin cancers. Regular use of sunscreen can help in preventing skin cancers occurring due to sun exposure.
How to choose a suitable sunscreen ?
Knowing how to choose a suitable sunscreen is crucial. You would be able to pick the right product only when you know about the types available and what each type does.
Types of sunscreen
Physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens are the two main types of sunscreens. There are different components used in these two types of sunscreens.
- Physical sunscreens
- Chemical sunscreens
These get their name from the fact that they offer a physical barrier on the skin. These products mainly contain titanium oxide and zinc oxide as the active ingredients. These are applied directly on the skin. They do not penetrate the skin too much, and so they are also suitable for sensitive skin. These are fast-acting products that reflect the sun’s rays and prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin cells. As they are quick and effective, they are known to be best suited for people who are likely to spend a lot of time outdoors. People who are on their outdoor adventures, as well as sportspeople, might find this type of sunscreen to be more reliable choices. It stays on the skin for a long time shielding it from the harsh rays. As they do not penetrate the skin, these are also often used for treating skin problems of children as well.
Avobenzone is one of the most popular ingredients in chemical sunscreens. These are designed with good penetration power. They get absorbed into the skin for preventing sun damage. They allow sun’s rays to be absorbed by the epidermis and then heat energy is dissipated to avoid the rays from affecting the deeper skin layers.
A combination of chemical and physical sunscreens depending on the lifestyle would be the most suitable choice for men and women. This can also keep a check on the damage from UV rays effectively.
Sun-protecting factor or SPF is the main parameter that you should compare while choosing a sunscreen. For different skin tones and ethnicities, dermatologists would be able to recommend the most suitable SPF range. For the Indian skin, for example, products with SPF range 15-40 are the optimal choices. Higher SPF values than this might not be essential, and they might turn out to be heavy formulations. The products also tend to be sticky and might end up clogging the pores or feeling uncomfortable on a warm sunny day.
When it comes to choosing a suitable product based on the formulation, there are several choices like creams, lotions, gels and others. Here are a few things to consider
- For acne-prone skin, products that clog the pores can worsen the condition. This is why a lightweight non-comedogenic formula should be chosen.
- To cover large areas like shoulders, arms and back, you can stick with quickly spreading lotions.
- For the face, you would get a matte look and easier application with gel-based sunscreen formulas.
Considering these quick tips, you can talk to your dermatologist to know about the right kind of sunscreen to choose for your skin based on the existing skin tone and skin health in general.
How to use sunscreen
Once you know what product to choose and what formulation to work with, you should also know how to use sunscreen – how to apply the product for best results-
- Remember to take a sufficient amount of product.
- Cover all the areas that are exposed and not just the face.
- Make it a point to cover the face, neck, arms, legs and other exposed portions based on the clothes you wear. Do not ignore even the ears and fingers.
- Ensure that you use your product at least 20 minutes before your skin is exposed to sunlight.
- Even when you are indoor and on the days when it is cloudy, the impact of UV rays might still be felt by your skin. So, sunscreens are important. Never massage the product – simply aim at obtaining good coverage.