If you’re one of those people who never found a need for sunscreen, or is simply too lazy to include it into your daily routine, this article might just make you take this product seriously! Going the extra mile (or step) to slab on some sunscreen will not only decrease the risk of skin cancer, but it will also help prevent premature skin ageing, pigmentation and more! Not sure what all these sunscreen terminologies mean? Here’s a useful and easy breakdown:
Let’s start with the basics – sunscreen terminology:
What’s the difference between sunscreens, sunblocks and suntan lotions?
First and foremost, please, please, please avoid anything that has “suntan lotion” on the bottle if you’re looking to protect your skin from the harmful sun rays. Suntan lotions often have poor Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of about 4 to 5 and are essentially just oils. These things will not protect or shield you from the sun, but will instead enhance and encourage melanin production, helping you maintain a healthy tan while minimally protecting the skin.
Of course, having said that, anything that has “sunscreen” or “sunblock” on the bottle are mostly good sun protectants. The only difference between the two is that the latter tends to have a more gooey consistency due to the use of titanium oxide or zinc oxide as part of the active ingredients. Sunscreens and sunblocks tend to have SPF levels that range from 15 onward and with active ingredients like zinc oxide, you can be assured that your skin will be protected from the sun’s rays.
What is SPF and how high should it be?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and it measures the level of UVB protection a product gives you. SPF typically ranges from 1 to 50 and it normally indicates the length of time your skin is protected from UVB rays (which causes sunburns) depending on your skin type.
If we’ve lost you, here’s an example:
If you normally get sunburned after ten minutes under the sun without applying any sun protection product, applying a product with an SPF of 30 will protect you for 30 x ten minutes (or 300 minutes) before you get burnt.
However, having said that, a minimum of SPF 50 is your best bet as it blocks out 98% of UVB rays. Any product that claims to have an SPF of 50 and above is said to be false advertising.
What is PA?
PA stands for Protection Grade of UVA, and is actually established by the Japanese. Simply put, this rating indicates the level of protection towards UVA rays (i.e. the cause of most sun-related skin cancers).
There are normally three PA levels – PA+, PA++ and PA+++, with PA+ providing some protection against UVA rays, and PA+++ providing the most protection. Thus, it is definitely advisable to go for sunscreens with the highest PA rating.
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, you might be wondering what the debate over “chemical blockers” or “physical blockers” is about. Here’s a simple breakdown:
A more popular option on the market, chemical blockers (or sunscreens) are typically thinner in consistency and can blend easily on the skin. Most girls will opt for chemical blockers because this product sits well under makeup. (p.s. you’re most probably using one too!)
As the name suggests, these products include various chemicals like oxybenzone, octocrylene, avobenzone and octinoxate as some of the active ingredients. Basically, these chemicals work to protect your skin by absorbing the UV rays and releasing them as heat. Sound cool? Unfortunately, it can also cause your skin to become overheated, resulting in irritation or worsening of dark spots. There are reports that also claim that it can penetrate into the bloodstream – something to consider if you’re not fond of chemicals lingering in your body.
Having said that, chemical blockers tend to have a broad spectrum, and with its ability to blend easily, it’s definitely something we will use every day!
Our favourite chemical blocker sunscreens:
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF 50 PA+++ ($46.15)
Biore Sunscreen Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50 PA++++ ($16)
You will recognise physical blocker products by the thicker consistency and its inability to blend easily on skin, leaving a white cast. Thus most users usually opt for physical blocker sunscreens only when applying products on their body.
Unlike chemical blockers, physical blockers contain mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These chemicals work as reflectors so that UV rays will be deflected from entering the skin. It is, therefore, gentler on the skin and is less likely to cause skin irritation.
Our favourite physical blocker sunscreens:
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF 50+ ($32.90)
Avène High Protection Mineral Cream SPF 50+ ($30.80)
So, which is better – Chemical or Physical blockers?
As with most products, it all boils down to your skin type and individual preferences. If you have sensitive skin, we recommend using physical blockers. Having said that, with all the Research and Development work going on nowadays, there are bound to be technological improvements in both kinds of blockers. And ultimately, you will still need to try and find out what’s best for you.
If we’ve either convinced you to start including sunscreen or sunblock application as part of your skincare routine or scared you into including it, here’s a guide to the best sunscreens in Singapore. You’re welcome. 😉
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