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The importance of SPF sunscreen

February 25, 2022


Long days spent playing outdoors and relaxing in the sun is what summer is all about. To make the most of this paradise we live in, we all need to be sun smart.


Sunscreen protects us from the damaging effects of sun exposure. It’s important to reapply sunscreen regularly while enjoying the outdoors so that you can catch some vitamin D without risking skin damage. And jumping in a lake or swimming pool calls for waterproof sunscreen that will continue protecting you while you’re splashing about.

Most of us have been burnt before. And plenty of people get burnt every year when the weather first heats up and we forget how quickly burns can occur. The safest approach is to slop on some sunscreen before stepping outside. That way your skin is protected, no matter what activities you get up to.

It’s important to remember that burns aren’t just painful and unsightly. Burnt skin is damaged skin that can lead to serious health problems and cancerous melanomas. There are plenty of excuses for not wearing sunscreen – it smells, it’s oily, it’s sticky, it’s messy, it gets on my clothes, my makeup doesn’t sit well over sunscreen. But with one of the highest mortality rates of skin cancer in the world, there aren’t enough excuses to hide the truth. Your life is too valuable to risk over a dislike for sunscreen.

Which is where the good news begins. Sunscreen manufacturers have heard your cries and have been continuously improving their products or what is a very competitive marketplace. As our most common line of defence against sunburn, it’s reassuring to know that sunscreen formulas are constantly being developed and improved. Skin cancer experts recommend wearing sunscreen every day, especially in summer. But if you’re unable to wear sunscreen for any health reasons, they advise covering up with clothing and staying out of the shade during peak sunshine hours. That doesn’t mean you need to hide indoors all day, but choose parks and resting places with plenty of tree cover and shade. Reapplying your sunscreen every couple of hours, particularly after swimming or sweating, is also important. Even water-resistant sunscreen needs to be reapplied regularly. Simply read the back of your sunscreen bottle to learn their recommended application times.

Certain environments are at higher risk for sunburn. Water, ice, and snow are all excellent reflectors of sunlight, increasing your chances of being sunburnt. It’s ultraviolet (UV) in sunlight that causes the damage. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is associated with ageing skin and ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength and is associated with burning skin. The level of protection against UVB in sunscreen is the ‘sun protection factor’, commonly known as SPF. The higher the SPF, the better protected you are and the longer you can enjoy the sunshine without being burnt.

Choosing a natural sunscreen is a great way to protect both your health and the environment. Most sunscreens are made with chemical ingredients, namely oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are absorbed through the skin with negative health risks. These chemicals are also known to damage the environment including coral reefs. Natural sunscreens use alternatives like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to protect skin from the sun. These create a physical barrier that reflects harmful UV rays, they’re environmentally friendly and are gentle on sensitive skin. A common criticism of natural sunscreens is of the white cast that can be left on the skin by the zinc. Modern technology is enabling zinc-based variations to be developed that are easier to rub on without leaving a trace.

Here are some common varieties of sunscreen. Ask your pharmacist or search online to learn more about the sunscreens available because there’s sunscreen for almost everyone.

Natural ingredients – naturally occurring mineral zinc oxide is a popular ingredient in sunscreens that use natural ingredients and are environmentally friendly.

Sensitive skin – search for a sunscreen that has been specifically designed for sensitive skin. Some are tailored for use on skin prone to acne, eczema, and dermatitis.

Light and non-oily – most modern sunscreens are designed to soak quickly into the skin without leaving an oily residue.

Daily sun protection – choose a moisturizer or makeup foundation that contains sunscreen for daily protection. These often have a lower SPF rating, so search for SPF 30 or above.

Allergenic – much like sensitive skin, some skin types are better suited to hypoallergenic sunscreen. Search for a paraben-free variety with both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Sunscreen free – if sunscreen isn’t your thing, there’s a sure-fire way to avoid harmful UV rays. Abstain from the sun! Simply choose to stay in the shade and wear clothing that covers your skin.

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