Sunscreen: Their types and why you need to know the difference

As the summer approaches, heat rises, and the intensity of the sun rays become stronger and intolerable to some extent. Apart from the scorching heat, have you noticed that when you step out of your home and into the sun and then come back home, dark lines crop up or the regions that were exposed, look much darker than the areas that were covered? That is what is called ‘tanning’.



So, what happens exactly that makes your skin tan? As you might be aware, sunrays contain UV rays. A type of UV rays, UV-A and UV-B, are the ones that penetrate the top layer of your skin and induce your skin produces more melanin than usual. Melanin is what gives your skin the colour you look. More the melanin, the darker you are. Less the melanin, lighter you look. Hence, when excess melanin is produced in the exposed regions, they look darker than the areas that are covered.



When your skin experiences prolonged exposure to UV rays, gradual tanning makes your skin cells weaker and damaged, and this might lead to melanoma, one of the worst types of skin cancer. To prevent this, sunscreen can be used. These can block the UV rays from entering your skin by either deflecting it or absorbing it themselves, so your skin remains protected.


Types of sunscreen

Based on the mode of action depending on how it works, sunscreens can be classified as UV deflecting or UV absorbing UV Deflecting – This is the most common type which is found in the market as the typical sunscreen creams/lotions/gels. This is for topical application only, i.e. it should be applied on your skin and not to be ingested. These generally contain compound like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which can deflect the UV rays. Especially UV-A which penetrates deep into your skin. But these also tend to give the unwanted white chalk-like appearance and thus are being replaced by other components which have a different mode of action, UV absorbing. UV Absorbing – These are the types which absorb the UV rays themselves, especially UV-B. They have gained popularity in recent times because it does not give the chalky appearance as the previous type. These are chemical compounds, and apart from traditional sunscreen, they are also used in personal care products such as lipsticks, foundations and even aftershave lotions. But when not formulated properly, it can cause damage to your endocrine system, the one that regulates your hormones.


Types on Sunscreen based on its SPF

SPF or sun protection factor is a measure that determines the effectivity of your sunscreen in its ability to protect your skin from UV rays. SPF 15 – The number 15 stands for the number of minutes you can remain under direct sunlight without getting your skin burned. In general, your skin can stay under direct sunlight for 10 mins, and then you’ll have evident tanning, and you might even experience sunburns. With an SPF 15 sunscreen, you can stay out for around 150 mins without worrying about tanning or sunburns. Apart from the time, this blocks 93% of UV-B rays. SPF 30- Similarly, SPF 30 will protect you 30 times better and so you would be protected for 300 mins. But the relationship of protection isn’t linear, and results may vary. This blocks around 97% of UV-B rays. Hence, technically it isn’t much more useful than SPF 15. But this is better for those who are involved in external activities such as swimming and sports. SPF 50- While SPF 50 can block around 98% of UV-B rays, its time effectivity isn’t higher than SPF 30’s. There is a general misconception that higher the SPF the better, but that isn’t the case. It works at the same intensity of that the previous two and also, a higher SPF has more selective protection to UV-B and not UV-A. Thus, it is advisable to use a broad-spectrum SPF which can protect you from UV-A and UV-B.


How to use it effectively

While product claim that sunscreens can protect you from the worst, but are you using it the right way?
  • Sunscreen is effective as long as it stays on your skin. But with all the sweating and physical friction, you gradually lose the layer that you have applied. Thus, it is truly advisable if you re-apply a coat every 2 hours.
  • But do you need to apply every 2 hours if you are inside and not exposed to the sun? No. In that case, you do not need to use it again and again. Apply it before stepping out.
  • Many of you might have oily skin and many sunscreen products have a high oil content. For those, you can opt for a matte finish sunscreen. The oil content is considerably lower, and it is non-sticky.
  • For those with dry skin, you probably use moisturizers. And that might not go very well with your oil-based sunscreen. For those, you can switch to sunscreen lotions which have more water content which will keep your skin moisturized. Alternatively, you could apply a matte finish sunscreen and then use your moisturizer.
  • Use the sunscreen daily, diligently and don’t be stingy with the amount you apply. Only then you’ll see the effect.
  • Over time you might notice that you are still getting tanned, but this tanning will be slow. It is because no sunscreen is 100% effective. The minimum UV rays that can pass through will cause this tanning. But it will happen slowly, but you will keep skin cancer at bay.
This summer, keep your skin protected, loved and happy.

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