What is sunscreen?
Sunscreen is a product that comes in the form of a lotion, spray, gel, foam, stick etc. that helps absorb or reflect some of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (especially UVA & UVB rays) thus protecting the skin against sunburn. Regular use of sunscreen has many benefits and can help anti-aging, prevent wrinkles, pigmentation, dark spots, tanning, sagging skin or moles.
Common queries and concerns about sunscreen? Sunscreen tips for healthy skin from an expert!
- Does sunscreen shield your skin from Vitamin D?Before answering this question, let us understand the relation between sun’s rays, Vitamin D production and its effect on skin.Shortwave Ultra Violet B rays or UVB are essential to synthesize Vitamin D, which is essential not only for strong bones but also for maintaining healthy skin and healthy hair. In an Indian context, specifically, there are some other factors, apart from exposure to sun that can affect synthesis of Vitamin D.Firstly, Indian skin requires almost 4 to 5 times more sun exposure than Caucasians to synthesize Vitamin D.
Secondly, an obese or overweight person, no matter how much time they spend in the sun, will take more time to synthesize Vitamin D.
Thirdly, certain medications, such as birth control pills, may adversely affect Vitamin D metabolism.
Fourth, tanned skin prevents absorption of enough UVB into the skin that aids Vitamin D synthesis. Especially, Indian skin gets tanned easily when exposed to sun. Although this layer of tan can help prevent skin cancer as UVB do not enter deep in the skin to cause damage, this same tan down regulates Vitamin D secretion.
So, especially Indians, cannot synthesize enough Vitamin D even if they spend long hours in the sun. And furthermore, prolonged hours in the sun without the protection of sunscreen puts the person at the risk of developing pigmentation, wrinkles, tanning and even pre-mature aging. All these risks can be avoided by ensuring you get enough Vitamin D either through food or tablets that can be prescribed by your physician rather than spending hours in the harsh sun for Vitamin D.
Now, to answer the primary question whether sunscreen inhibits Vitamin D production, although there were concerns that slathering sunscreen may hinder Vitamin D production, new studies 1 have revealed that, proper usage of sunscreen, in fact, increased the levels of Vitamin D in the body. So, a good sunscreen, with high SPF factor is a must when going out in the sun as it will protect the skin from far lasting damage caused by harmful sun rays that may be difficult to undo even with supplements.
- How do you decide what SPF sunscreen to buy?SPF means Sun Protection Factor which measures the level of UVB protection the product will provide. A higher SPF does not mean that it will provide more protection in blocking out the sun’s rays. In fact, the FDA had banned the usage of SPF 60 or SPF 70 as it was found that the there was no difference between the efficacy of sunscreens with SPF 50 and those claiming SPF 60 or SPF 70. SPF 30 protects against 97% of the sun’s UVB rays, a slightly higher SPF, such as SPF 50 SPF blocks out 98% of the sun’s rays. But an SPF above 50 does not guarantee more sun protection and may give your skin a whitish look. It makes no sense spending more money on a product that does not give any extra benefit than SPF 30 and SPF 50.
- Should sunscreen be used only during the summer months?Another commonly asked query is whether sunscreen should only be used in summers? The answer to that is a resounding ‘NO’. Sunscreen should be included in your daily skincare regimen and should be used all year long to ensure blemish free, tan free skin. The reason for this is that not just the sun’s rays but even clouds allow UVA rays. So actually we can tan more on a cloudy or rainy day than in a hot summer day which can result in premature aging and photo aging. So, do not get careless in protecting your skin and make sure to use sunscreen when it is rainy or cloudy or even when you are going in sand or water. A good sunscreen is the basic necessity to give your skin protection in all seasons, all weathers, all year round.
- Is it enough to apply sunscreen just once a day?No, any sunscreen, even that of a higher SPF, requires re-application after 3-4 hours. So, when you are outdoors, make sure to apply sunscreen every 3 to 4 hours. If you are near sand or water, it is recommended that you re -apply sunscreen every 2 hours (sand and water reflect the sun’s rays, increasing your risk of getting sunburned). While swimming, you can even re apply sunscreen every 80 minutes. It is essential to re-apply sunscreen to best protect your skin against the elements. Just using the sunscreen is not enough, using it in the right amount and re application will ensure optimum sun protection.
- Does SPF in BB and CC creams help?Generally anything that offers sun protection is beneficial, but the minimal SPF in moisturizers, foundations and creams, by themselves, is not enough to protect your skin against the harmful UVA & UVB sun rays. It is a misconception that the SPF in these creams and lotions is enough sun protection when in reality the sun protection factor often gets diluted by the presence of other excipients and active ingredients present in the products. It is recommended that the usage of these creams should be supplemented by a good SPF sunscreen.
Sunscreen tips for healthy skin
- Choose the correct sunscreen for your skin type (dry, oily, sensitive or acne prone).
- Ensure that you choose the right SPF.
- Make sure that your sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection (UVA & UVB both).
- Know the ingredients in your sunscreen to make sure there are no harmful chemicals that can cause harm to your skin.
- Is the sunscreen water & sweat resistant?
- Check whether the sunscreen has an expiry date to ensure that you do not use an outdated (and thus an unsafe) product.
Skincare tips – How to protect your skin from the sun?
- UVA and UVB rays are essential for Vitamin D synthesis but make sure you get your Vitamin D in a safe manner, preferably in the early morning sun or even through Vitamin D supplements.
- Make sure you stay in shade during the hotter hours during the day as the sun’s rays at more intense during this period.
- Use sunscreen every day before going out, even if it is rainy, cloudy or hot.
- Make sure to re-apply sunscreen every two hours.
- Wear long sleeved, loose tops and full pants, preferably cotton, to protect the skin of your arms and legs.
- Use a cap or hat to cover your head and neck in the sun.
- Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses which provide good UV protection.
- Avoid tanning beds as they can cause skin damage and may lead to skin cancer.
Dermatologist, Cosmetologist, Tricologist, Leprologist, Venereologist