Applying sunscreen every day? Congratulations. Re-applying it every few hours? Pat yourself on the back. Hoarding an assortment of different types of sunscreens for different occasions and locations? Didn’t think so. If you’re sitting in front of the computer screen all day, you’ll need a very different sunscreen from the one you’ll slather on before going on a hike. Since we may have burst your bubble here (you can stop patting your back now), let us simplify the sunscreen conundrum for you. Yes, it does make sense to switch to a water-resistant formula when you’re out for a swim, a hydrating one when you’re in-flight (of course you need sunscreen when you’re that close to the sun!), and one full of antioxidants if you’re a screen addict. We got New York-based dermatologist Dr Shereene Idriss, to help you pick the perfect sunscreen for your skin and your lifestyle.
Should you pick a physical or chemical sunscreen?
The sunscreen market is essentially divided into two types—physical and chemical protectors. “Physical blockers (such as zinc or titanium) create a physical barrier that block both UVA and UVB rays from hitting your skin; whereas chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays and convert them to heat. Not all chemical sunscreens have broad spectrum protection so make sure to look out for the ones that do, such as avobenzone and oxybenzone,” explains Dr Idriss. Both—physical and chemical sunscreens—are safe bets when choosing one, both with their own sets of benefits attached. “While physical blockers get to work immediately upon application, chemical sunscreens require an incubation time of approximately 30 minutes. Also, physical blockers are better suited for those with sensitive skin, rosacea or underlying melasma, as they are less likely to be irritating and deflect heat rather than absorb its energy.” She suggests picking chemical sunscreens if you spend a lot of time outdoors actively, as they are less likely to wipe off and tend to last longer while sweating.
This the kind of sunscreen you’ll need for everything you’ll do this summer
For everyday protection
The first step is figuring out what your skin loves or repels. “Ensure it’s one that makes you feel comfortable so you will adhere to using it daily ultimately. If you are prone to acne or are on the oilier side, you probably want to try a physical blocker first as it has more anti-inflammatory properties. If you are on the darker side, you may want to go for a chemical sunscreen as they tend to be less chalky in appearance than their physical counterpart. Dr Idriss strongly advocates daily sunscreen usage, in or out, “at least just to your face and the back of your hands,” she says. “Good habits are hard to break (once they’ve been created), so get yourself into the habit of using it. Additionally, UVA, which attributes to signs of ageing, penetrates glass; so even if you’re not out and about, you can still be exposed. Look for sunscreens that offer both UVA and UVB protection,” says Dr Idriss. She loves the Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense Tinted SPF. “I believe it offers the best of both worlds. It’s a lightweight physical blocker with a little tint so it doesn’t give off a white cast.”
For anything that involves a lot of water, or sweat
Strenuous outdoor activities require a strong sunscreen to match. “Water resistant sunscreens must pass an independent test to prove that they retain their SPF while swimming or sweating. Look for labels that say “Water Resistant (40min)” or “Water Resistant (80min)”, as those sunscreens retain their stated SPF after that specific amount of time,” says Dr Idriss. And once you’ve crossed the stated amount of time, you must reapply. “In general, chemical sunscreens are better suited for such situations as swimming, surfing or excessive sweating as their activity tends to last longer and they are less likely to be wiped off.” She’s a fan of the La Roche Posay Anthelios Dry Touch Sunscreen because, it has been shown to absorb excess oil while remaining water resistant for up to 80 minutes.”
For digital addicts
If you go to bed with your phone every night and wake up to its brightness, or are in a desk job, your sunscreen needs to be able to address the damage this causes. “Blue light ranges on the light spectrum from 380nm to 500nm. This portion of the spectrum is usually emitted from computer devices, cell phones and TVs. It promotes oxidative stress in the skin, which can lead to premature ageing, breakdown of collagen, inflammation and discolouration. When looking for a sunscreen, look for one that blocks both UVA and UVB but also incorporates antioxidants to help fight the oxidative stress,” explains Dr Idriss. She suggests the Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 as “it contains red algae, which helps protect against visible light, including blue light.”
For mid-air protection
Hydration is important when you’re on ground. Up in the air, it’s a necessity. The same rule applies for sunscreens. “Hydration is key for in-flight reapplication of sunscreens, as the cabin air can be drying and you don’t want to indirectly create an occlusive barrier without replenishing moisture.” She likes the Elta MD UV Replenish Broad Spectrum SPF 44, because “it is a physical blocker loaded with hyaluronic acid to help your skin retain moisture.”
For a hike
Climbing a mountain every once in a while is good for you, but make sure you pick the right sunscreen while you’re there. “UV exposure increases about four per cent for every 30m (1000ft) gain in elevation. Therefore, your risk of burning is increased at higher altitudes. Look for broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 50 at the minimum, and make sure you are reapplying every 90 minutes,” Dr Idriss explains.
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