Sun Protection

What a dermatologist would like you to know?

If I was allowed to have just one anti-aging product in my kitty, it would be a sunscreen.

Sunscreen is that one genie in a bottle that protects your skin from the sun’s powerful UV rays, decreasing your risk of skin aging, wrinkles and dark spots, sunburns, tanning and skin cancer as well.

Types of sunscreens and how do they work

Sunscreens are basically filters that protect skin from UV damage by either reflecting the rays back or absorbing and neutralizing them into harmless components. They are categorized into Chemical and Physical creams depending upon the mechanism of action. 

  • sunblockThe first group of sunscreen (the ones mainly blocking, reflecting and scattering UV rays away from skin surface) are called Physical sunscreens. For example, names like titanium oxide, zinc oxide and yashad bhasm (ayurvedic nomenclature for zinc oxide) on your sunscreen label denote Physical sunscreens.
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  • The second group are the Chemical sunscreens which absorb the UV radiation and neutralize it into heat energy and inactive components. So look for cinnamates, salicylates, avobenzone & oxybenzone, these are all chemical sunscreens.
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A word of caution and mindfulness here:

Physical sunscreens are also referred as inorganic sunscreens and Chemical sunscreens as organic sunscreens. Please remember that the name “organic” refers to the chemical structure, it does not refer to an organic natural source. And while the name inorganic may suggest otherwise, but many of natural plant based sunscreens have physical sunscreens as a component.

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Which is the right sunscreen for me?

An ideal sunscreen would offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA cause wrinkles and aging while UVB leads to sunburn and tanningHence the need of a broad spectrum sunscreen with dual protection.

However, consider the below guidelines while looking for a broad spectrum as per your skin type.

  • Dry Skin would love cream based sunscreens and tolerate both chemical and physical types well.
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Barunii Recommends:

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  • Oily, acne prone skin can easily breakout with creams. Opt for gels or lotion based formulations with either physical or chemical sunscreen agents. Do read up labels for non-comedogenic tag and steer clear of sunscreens with lanolin, mineral oil or silicones.
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Barunii Recommends:

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Barunii Recommends:

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  • Sensitive skin: Physical sunscreens are better than chemical ones owing to lower skin irritability potential and fewer chemicals in formulations.
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Barunii Recommends:

 

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  • For body areas other than face: Lotions or sprays work best for large areas as they spread easily and are less greasy than creams.
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Barunii Recommends:

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What is SPF? What does the numbers suggest?

what-is-SPF

SPF stands for sun protection factor, which is  a measure of how effective a sunscreen is, in protecting skin from sun damage. It is calculated based on how much time it takes for sunburn to appear on  skin treated with the sunscreen; vis-a-vis bare skin. In practical terms, it means that if normal bare skin develops a sunburn in 10 minutes, skin adequately layered with sunscreen of SPF 15  will develop a burn in 150 minutes (10 minutes multiplied by a factor of 15) and accordingly the more higher SPF, longer the skin stays protected.

Do note however that SPF calculations takes into account the protection from UVB rays, not from UVA rays. So look for a sunscreen that mentions SPF along with Protection from UVA (PA ++) on the label. Because UVA rays lead to wrinkles and UVB leads to tan, sunburn and pigmentation.

Sunscreen is usually washed off by sweating or swimming. Also, it’s not mostly applied as thoroughly and in proper amount, hence the caveat to reapply every 2-3 hours.

Is sunscreen the best effective strategy for sun protection?

Sunscreens should be used year-round, however no product will give you a full security from harmful effects of sun exposure. A combination of protective clothing, physical shade, sunscreen and common sense are the best bet.

  • Avoiding the sunAvoid the sun during peak hours. Generally, this is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Snow, sand, water, glass and concrete reflect more light and increase the chance of sun damage.
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  • Wear sun protective clothing. This includes outfits with long sleeves, sunglasses and hats, clothes with a thicker weave and SPF Clothing.
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  • Since UV rays can pass through clouds, use sunscreen even on cloudy days.
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Is there a correct way to apply sunscreen?

  • Clinically, your sunscreens should be applied at a density of 2.0 mg/cm2 of skin surface (used as a technique to test the SPF of a sunscreen during the developing phase).  This density roughly translates to a quarter teaspoon on face (P.S. that does not count for face and neck, an additional amount is to be used on your neck). You get best protection at this density, anything higher is of no additional benefit but anything lower (which is pretty common) will leave you significantly less protected than the SPF mentioned. 
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  • Apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors.
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  • Use sunscreen on all skin surfaces that will be exposed to the sun.
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  • Don’t use sunscreens past their expiry dates.
 

 

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