SUN PROTECTION 101
Did you know that sun damage is the cause behind 80% of visible skin aging? UV exposure can lead to wrinkles, dark spots, melasma, dullness, and other skin issues. Protecting your skin from the sun is one of the most important things you can do to keep your skin looking healthy and youthful. Preventing skin cancer caused by UV rays is also of the utmost importance.
There are two types of ultraviolet rays that can damage your skin.
UVB is the type of ultraviolet radiation responsible for sunburns, skin discolorations, and some skin cancers. UVB rays are more damaging in intense sun, closer to the equator, and at high altitudes. When you see an SPF rating on a sunscreen, the SPF refers to the level of protection against UVB rays.
UVA rays, on the other hand, penetrate more deeply into the skin than UVB rays. They are also less noticeable, because they are present even on cloudy, overcast days, and can even penetrate glass (so no, you’re not safe in your car!). Because of the greater damage UVA rays cause in the deepest levels of the skin, they are responsible for wrinkles, skin cancers, and they break down the underlying structure of your skin, causing loss of firmness and elasticity.
Broad Spectrum Protection
SPF ratings tell you how much UVB protection a sunscreen provides, but do NOT tell you how much protection you get from UVA rays, the most damaging form of UV. That is why it is so important to find a sunscreen that is labeled broad-spectrum, and/or to find a sunscreen with a high PA+ rating.
The PA+ rating system is used in Korea to show how much UVA protection a sunscreen provides. PA++++ is the maximum rating, which provides the most UVA protection, PA+++ provides strong protection, and PA++ slightly less. We suggest that when spending time outdoors, look for a sunscreen that provides the highest SPF and PA+ ratings you can find. And because UVA can penetrate glass, we recommend wearing sun protection even when you are driving in your car, or working in front of a window indoors.
Chemical vs Mineral Sunscreens
Sunscreens will often use a combination of both “chemical” and “mineral” (or physical) sunscreen filters to achieve protection against the broad range of UVA and UVB rays. The difference is that chemical sunscreens tend to absorb the sun’s rays and break down over time, while “mineral” sunscreen filters reflect the sun’s rays, providing a physical “block” from the sun.
If you have particularly sensitive skin, we suggest trying a mineral-only sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
How to Apply...and Reapply
Most people don’t put on enough sunscreen. You should generally use more sunscreen than you would use moisturizer. Use a nickel-sized amount, and pat it evenly onto your face (patting distributes sunscreen more evenly than rubbing). For your entire body, you should be using about 1 ounce of sunscreen. This amount of sunscreen may take a while to absorb. Plan to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside to allow the lotion to set on your skin.
It would be nice if once you put on your sunscreen in the morning, you were set for the whole day, but unfortunately, you do have to reapply for sunscreen to be effective over a longer period. Sunscreen filters break down as they absorb UV rays, and you also lose sunscreen protection by rubbing, sweating, and producing oil on your face. A good guideline for sunscreen effectiveness is to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, especially if you have been in the sun.
It’s not easy to reapply sunscreen during a busy day, especially if you’re wearing makeup. Using a BB cushion or compact with UV protection to touch up your makeup during the day can help to add some sun protection. Or, you can apply some sunscreen onto your hands and gently pat it on top of your makeup. Powder and mist sunscreens are other options. When doing sports or outdoor activity, it’s especially important to reapply sunscreen generously and often.