Sunscreen Facts You Need to Know

Sunscreen Facts You Need to Know

When it comes to protecting ourselves from sun-damaged skin, there’s one thing most of us need to admit: we’re completely lost about sun care and choosing a sunscreen. Knowing what to look for in a good sunscreen and knowing what will really prevent sun-damaged skin, is not as complex as the long aisles of SPF 100s and waterproof creams might have us believe. Sun care is a lot easier when you know what to look for and what to avoid.

Firstly, we need to understand what sunscreen for skin really is and how it works. Sunscreens are created by embedding elements which can block the sun’s harmful rays or reduce the impact UV rays have on the skin. These elements are further converted into tiny, almost invisible particles using nanotechnology.

Modern sunscreen lotions can be made with two types of ingredients. The first contains inorganic particles like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, while the other has natural compounds or herbal extracts like oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is commonly used in chemical sunscreen lotions; however, it is known to cause allergies and hormonal changes. So it’s best to avoid this ingredient and use products with minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

The former protects the skin by providing protection against harmful ultra violet (UV rays) by way of blocking or reflecting sunlight. These are called physical sunscreens. They block both UVA and UVB. The latter works by providing chemical protection for skin care. This is done by releasing their energy in the form of heat as they absorb UV light. These are called chemical sunscreens. The former are better known as sun blocks and the latter as sunscreens.

Sun blocks use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and form a layer on the skin’s surface that reflects both UVA and UVB rays. Sun blocks tend to be greasier to the touch. Sun blocks are broad spectrum, meaning they fight off both UVA and UVB rays to prevent sun-damaged skin.

Sunscreens, on the other hand, use chemicals that soak into the skin, filtering and breaking down any UVA and UVB rays that have been absorbed by the skin. It is important to note that not all sunscreens protect against UVB and UVA rays. Always search for “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum” for the best protection against sun-damaged skin.

Dermatologists often recommend a combination of both types of sunscreen as the resultant cream provides chemical protection along with physical defense. Sunscreens are generally categorized into different types depending on the level of sun protection factor, or SPF they offer. Normally an SPF between 30 and 50 is recommended. However, it is not always a guarantee that a higher SPF cream provides better or longer protection because almost all of them are washed away or absorbed into the skin after two hours of using them.

Facts about Using Sunscreen:


Sunscreens Don’t Prevent Skin Cancer

The National Cancer Institute stated that over two million Americans are diagnosed each year with melanoma—a deadly form of skin cancer—and with the figure drastically increasing, sunscreens are not the best option to curb it. Studies have shown that everything from skin freckles, moles, family history, fair skin, severe burns, and overexposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer.

Suggestion: Along with a good sunscreen, ensure you wear a thick sun coat, sunglasses, and makeup products which contain SPF. Stay indoors whenever possible.

Sunscreen Isn’t the Solution for Skin Damage

Although sunscreens provide effective protection from sunburns and tanning, they do very little to treat issues like skin inflammation, reddening, skin cancer, and rashes. At times, sunscreens may also provide little protection to the skin, in spite of using a good sunscreen due to using very little product or forgetting to reapply.

Suggestion: Opt for sunscreens that fall under ‘broad spectrum’ as they often provide a much better barrier against the sun than others. For other skin-related issues, consult a good dermatologist.

Sunscreens May Cause Vitamin D Deficiency

Sunlight, an important source of vitamin D, is essential for the body. Vitamin D is responsible for healthy bone development, strong immune system, and prevents skin cancer. A good sunscreen works effectively in blocking the sun’s rays; however, it may also prevent the skin from absorbing the required amount of sunlight for proper functioning of the body.

Suggestion: A good skin care tip is to devote a few minutes of sun exposure in the morning, since it’s the best time for vitamin D production in the body and the rays are least harmful during this time. Another option is to eat food and take supplements that are rich in vitamin D after consulting a doctor.

Use Makeup with SPF

young woman with sunglasses applyng sun protector cream at her

Many people often forget to apply a coat of sunscreen before stepping out. This can be avoided by using makeup products and creams containing SPF. A number of brands have come up with cosmetics which contain SPF factors.

Suggestion: Research good makeup brands which incorporate SPF into their products. However, be careful to avoid products that contain harmful substance like bismuth oxychloride, parabens, polyethylene, and artificial colors and fragrances. Also, be aware that some moisturizers with SPF may not be that effective.

Sunscreens Aren’t the Only Defense against the Sun

While most people apply lots of sunscreen to their arms, legs, and face, there are many other areas that also need to be protected from direct sunlight. Sunscreen on your face is a good start, but sunglasses and a lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 really go the extra mile to prevent sun-damaged skin. Sunglasses that block out both UVA and UVB rays are especially beneficial in protecting the delicate skin around the eyes.

When it comes to protecting yourself from sun-damaged skin, a little education goes a long way. No two sun care products are created equally, so it’s best to know what you really need before you start going down that sun protection aisle at your local drug store.



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Gholipour, B., “5 Surprising Things About Sunscreen,” Live Science web site, July 29, 2013;, last accessed January 29, 2017.