sunscreen feat 2

SPF and PA. Do You KNOW your sunscreen?

Flawlessness. Unblemished.

These will always be the unrivaled qualities used in describing perfect skin.

While one half of the globe sees the sexy golden tan as an epitome of skin perfection, our eastern oriental counterparts have always sought refugee from the sun in the quest for porcelain skin. But no matter how solar-seasoned we each prefer our skin tone to be, everyone needs sunscreen. With so many on the market, how well do you actually know about sunscreens?

Understanding sunscreen isn’t rocket science. Let us from break it down for you.

What is sunscreen?

Simply put, sunscreen or sunblock is a solution containing protective chemicals which you apply on the surface of your skin to achieve some level of  protection from the sun.

How does it work?

How does it protect our skin from the sun? Well, the chemicals contained in sunscreens can either reflect, scatter, diffuse or absorb UV (ultra violet) rays from the sun. This way, our skin isn’t directly exposed or harmed by UV rays.

What about the sun?

When exposed to the sun, our bare skin will eventually get red, swollen and feel painful because the internal structures are damaged. This is commonly known as sunburn. The main culprit? Ultra Violet rays or UV rays from the sun. UV rays can be further split into UVA, UVB and UVC rays which all cannot be detected by the naked eye.

UVA –  The Ageing ray and main reason behind sun related skin cancers. It destroys the vitamin A in our skin and also indirectly causes DNA damage. Makes up 98.7% in UV rays.

UVB – The Sunburn ray. This ray directly causes DNA damage to skin cells.

UVC – The most powerful out of all three rays, but most often filtered so there’s almost none of it when it reaches our skin. Damages DNA directly too.

All three rays, UVA, UVB and UVC damages the collagen fibers in our skin which is responsible for keeping our skin young, as collagen contributes to the elasticity of our skin. So, it is reasonably clear that UV rays contribute significantly to accelerate ageing of our skin as well as any part of the body exposed to it, such as our eyes.

What do SPF , PA and Broad Spectrum on sunscreen bottles mean?

SPF – Stands for Sun Protection Factor. It is a way of expressing how effective a sunscreen is at protecting against UVB rays specifically. The numerical digit following SPF indicates  how much time you’ll be able to withstand exposure to the sun before burning up in sunburn frenzy.For an example, If Brad Pitt took 15 minutes to reach the state of being sun burnt, an SPF30 sunscreen will delay his time to achieve a sunburn by 30 times more.

A higher SPF will of course give better protection against UVB, but usually, SPF 30 would be sufficient for daily use. For folks with lighter skin, a higher SPF such as SPF 50 would be more effective as they burn much faster compared to people with darker skin.

PA – Abbreviation for Protection Grade of UVA established by the Japanese. It basically informs users of  the level of protection towards UVA rays.

PA+ means the sunscreen provides some protection against UVA rays, PA++ indicates moderate protection while PA+++ shows very good protective abilities against UVA rays. Since UVA causes long term skin damage, it is therefore advisable to go for sunscreens with the highest PA rating.

Sunscreens that provide both UVB and UVA protection is termed Broad Spectrum.

Are sunscreen and sunblock the same?

Though we often think sunscreen and sunblock differ only by spelling, turns out, they actually posses different characteristics. Sunblock provides better protection from UV rays compared to sunscreen as they contain a more opaque formulation, hence, require less bouts of reapplying. The chemicals in sunscreens breakdown at a faster rate under sun exposure so are comparatively, a little less effective  than sunblocks. Apart from that, sunscreens are better suited for daily use while sunblocks are best for sports or activities requiring higher exposure to UV rays.

What are the types of sunscreens available?

Typically, sunscreens today are made to suite the conditions of the wearer’s skin. Sunscreens come in moisturizing, mattifying, make up base, color correcting, plumping, anti ageing, fragrance free and many more varieties of formulations. So don’t worry, there’ll always be a product out there that suites you!

How do I know if my sunscreen is the right one for me?

Always choose a suitable formula for your skin type. Your sunscreen should not break your skin out or cause you any skin drama. Also, the sunscreen should be a broad spectrum formula with an adequate SPF and the highest PA rating possible. As a guideline, SPF 30 PA+++ for daily wear, SPF50 PA+++ for outdoor activities or for folks living nearer to the equator.

I hope you have found this insightful.