1. SPF (Skin Protection Factor).
The SPF number you see on the label is actually an indication of how long it can protect your skin before it gets affected by the sun. (E.g. SPF30 means, your skin will be protected for 30 x 5minutes = 150 minutes). But bear in mind, the level of protection would differ with different people. Factors include skin type, how much sunscreen you apply as well as how much you sweat.
So if you know you’re going to be exposed to the sun for an extended time (at the beach, outdoor sports, swimming), then it’s best to get SPF50. Make sure you apply enough and well, and re-apply after every 2 hours.
- Tip to know! --- SPF50 blocks 98% of UVB rays whereas SPF100 blocks 99% UVB rays. See that? There’s really not much difference in the amount of protection the product offers as the SPF numbers go up. Products with higher SPF are also usually more expensive, so that’s some money-saving tip for you as well!
Look for sunscreen with this label. It means that it will protect you from both UVA (cause of premature skin aging/skin cancer) and UVB (skin cancer/sunburn) rays as opposed to protecting you from just one type of UV ray. To provide this level of protection, the product has to have a specific combination of protective ingredients AND for a product to carry this label, it needs to pass a certain test. So that’s some credibility there for your assurance.
3. ‘Physical/Mineral’ vs. ‘Chemical’ sunscreen.
You will see this term on sunscreens. This is just to indicate the type of protection it offers and how it works. Here’s what it means:
‘Physical/Mineral’ sunscreen contains ingredients that physically block and reflect the sunrays from your skin (like a foil paper effect!). It also uses mineral compounds such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (look for either one of these ingredients!).
‘Chemical’ sunscreen contains a combination of chemicals which absorbs the harmful rays and deactivates it. The chemical reaction will then release the UV rays in the form of heat from your skin. However, word of caution, chemical sunscreens get absorbed into your body and may affect your body chemistry.
4. Gel, cream or spray?
Today, there are just so many varieties of sunscreens available to suit different skins. There should be something for everybody. So if your skin is dry, go for cream texture. If you sweat a lot or have oily skin, try the gel type. It absorbs into the skin well, and feels light on the skin. Spray ones seems easy and convenient, but if you have respiratory issues (asthma at least) I would not recommend it as you would be inhaling it. After all, I feel like it won’t give full coverage, and a waste of product too (they vaporize into the air!).
You should also take note of these:
- No sunscreen is waterproof. When going for swimming, or any outdoor sports (activities which will get you sweating heavily), look for water resistant sunscreens as they should indicate how long (in minutes) the product can last to work.
- If you use cosmetics, find those with SPF on their labels. There’s plenty of these available now. That’s one step less to take when getting your face ready!
As with all skincare products, it’s a try and error process. Different people get different effect. Even if a product gets raving reviews by many, for some it just doesn’t work as great for them. So don’t give, and just start with something. Speaking to the staff at the shop is a good start!