Sunscreen is a daily essential
From UVA and UVB protection to understanding the benefits of wearing SPF, here's why you should wear sunscreen every day and consider it a core part of your skincare routine.
- Sun damage is caused by UV rays, which are present during daylight, even cloudy days
- There are two types of UV - UVB causes burning and skin cancer, while UVA causes ageing
- When choosing a sunscreen, it's important to review its SPF rating and whether it offers broad spectrum protection
- Sunscreens can either protect you physically or chemically depending on their ingredients
Why you need to wear sunscreen everyday
There's sun burn... And then there's sun damage that happens over years. You won’t notice it until you do.
Each day, from the very first minute you’re exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays, your skin is silently under assault. It's subtle but real, because even clouds and windows don't prevent it. Even on an average grey day in the UK. Even while you sit inside all day. Sunscreen is an essential step to healthy looking skin and ageing well. And yes, it should be baked into your daily skincare routine (excuse the pun). Not reserved just for summer. Not just for the beach or sun-lounging days. Everyday.
Without sunscreen, we allow the acceleration of visible signs of skin damage like wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dark spots and weathered skin; while raising the risk of developing skin cancer. When it comes to skin vs. the sun - there's no hiding behind your skin type and genetics either, as the sun causes damage to all skin.
Common myths to not use sunscreen daily
These are some of the things often overheard in avoidance of using sunscreen everyday:
- "My make-up includes SPF": Dermatologists widely recommend using a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 – most makeup products only offer SPF 15 or SPF 20. Studies also show that on average, we aren't using enough of said make up for decent and consistent SPF coverage.
- "I don’t burn, I tan": Tanning is literally your skin reacting to UV rays damaging your living skin cells. The outer layers of skin produce melanin - that results in darkening - in an attempt to protect itself and prevent further sun damage. A 'healthy tan' is actually a huge misnomer as there is no such thing.
- "I have olive skin that’s sun hardy": Burning is an immediate and visible effect of sun damage that can be a helpful catalyst for paler skin types to seek sun protection. On the opposite side of the spectrum, olive skin types often think they’re invincible to the sun's rays. Yet UV exposure causes damage indiscriminately and tanning is olive skin's signal of that damage. Just because you don't burn, doesn't mean you can't get skin cancer. Fact.
- "Meh, it’s cloudy, cool and overcast": Just because you can’t see and feel the sun doesn’t mean that UV rays aren’t there. In fact, UV rays can penetrate clouds and sometimes reflect off the clouds to be even more intense.
- "I sit indoors for most of the day": Windows don’t completely block UV rays. UVA rays (the ageing rays) can penetrate glass.
- "But, Vitamin D?": There is absolutely no evidence that daily sunscreen use leads to Vitamin D insufficiency. No sunscreen will protect you from 100% of UV rays and most people will make enough vitamin D from short periods of sun exposure.
- In the UK between April-Sept, 10-15 mins should be enough for pale skin types, while darker skins types will get enough between 25-30 mins.
- Sunnier climes like in Australia, mean most Aussies will get enough vitamin D from just a few short minutes in the sun.
- Foods such as fatty fish, eggs and red meat are also a good source of Vitamin D and supplements are readily available.
Things to consider when choosing sunscreen
Do I need broad spectrum protection?
Most sunscreens will provide both UVB and UVA protection, but make sure to look out for it, as both are important for protecting against sun damage:
- Ultraviolet B - has a shorter wavelength and penetrates the topmost layers of skin to cause redness, burning and skin cancer
- Ultraviolet A - has a longer wavelength that penetrates beneath the skin surface to cause longer term damage such as wrinkling, premature ageing, as well as skin cancer
What does the SPF rating mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It refers to the level of protection offered from UVB radiation.
When you tell people that you use SPF 50 they often comment that it seems extreme – after all, you still want a 'healthy tan' no? SPF doesn't stop you from tanning completely, but it does prevent the burning and more serious damage of skin cells. In fact, no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays, but the below graph shows the difference between SPFs.
What SPF should you use daily?
For effective sun protection, dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 when spending time outdoors. It's important to note that wearing a higher SPF doesn’t mean you can go without re-applying for longer. The rule of thumb is to re-apply every 2 hours of sun exposure.
Which active sunscreen ingredients are safe?
There are 2 types of sunscreens – Chemical and Physical. The difference lies in how these ingredients work to protect you.
Chemical sunscreens work like a sponge and absorb the rays before they can damage your skin. There are over 30 chemical sunscreen ingredients that you'll see on the market. They tend to be more readily available, making it easier to find formulations that are lightweight and easy to rub in.
Chemical sunscreens are generally considered safe for use in the short-term, however the impact of long-term use is less certain due to insufficient research around these ingredients. Certain ingredients have been shown to penetrate and linger in the human body or pose a risk of allergic reaction. These include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene and benzophenone (-1, -2, -8). Others like PABA and trolamine salicylate have been deemed unsafe even for short-term use and are banned in some countries. All 6 are eco-toxic and have been found to cause reproduction issues in aquatic life and coral bleaching. However, you can find chemical formulations without these ingredients.
Physical sunscreens (aka mineral) work like a shield, sitting on the surface of your skin to reflect and scatter the rays before they penetrate your skin. The most common mineral ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. While they are considered safe ingredients, it's key to avoid sunscreens that use them in nanoparticle form, which have also been linked to environmental harm. Mineral sunscreens are usually the better option for people with sensitive skin as reactions are unlikely. Despite having the reputation of being thicker in consistency and for leaving a white cast on the skin, demand has increased in recent years so there have been developments in formulations which are lighter and easier to apply.
Finding the sunscreen you love
Most importantly, it’s the sunscreen you like best on your skin that matters – the smell (or lack of), the texture and how it layers with your other products. That’s what will determine if you keep using sunscreen. Every single day. Like the skincare staple it should be.
skoosh skin has scoured the market, so that you don’t have to, to source effective sunscreens safe for you and the environment. Don't forget to check out the curated selection recommended for your unique skin profile.
- Richard, Elisabeth G. “All About Sunscreen.” The Skin Cancer Foundation, 2019, www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/.
- “10 Myths About Sun Protection.” Cancer Council Australia, www.cancer.org.au/content/pdf/PreventingCancer/BeSunsmart/10_Myths_FINAL_FOR_WEB2.pdf.
- “Sunscreen FAQs.” American Academy of Dermatology, www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs.
- “Anti-Ageing Starts With Sunscreen.” Paula's Choice, 2019, www.paulaschoice.com.au/expert-advice/skincare-advice/anti-aging-wrinkles/anti-aging-starts-with-sunscreen.html.
- “What You Need to Know about the Chemicals in Your Sunscreen.” The Washington Post, Consumer Reports, 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/health/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-chemicals-in-your-sunscreen/2019/06/14/
- Brown, Jessica. “Sunscreen: What Science Says about Ingredient Safety.” BBC, 2019, www.bbc.com/future/article/20190722-sunscreen-safe-or-toxic.
- Zachos, Elena, and Eric Rosen. “What Sunscreens Are Best for You—and the Planet?” National Geographic, 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/sunscreen-destroying-coral-reefs-alternatives-travel-spd/.
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