Yes, yes we know: We’ve gone on and on about how important sunscreen is; it blocks out harmful UV rays, the main culprit that causes dull skin, dark spots and in the worst case, skin cancer.
Then there’s the fact that there are two components to UV rays – UVB and UVA. The first is responsible for burns and tanning, while the second does more damage in terms of photoaging (wrinkles!). Protect yourself from both by using your sunscreen properly.
Here are six common mistakes women make when using sunscreen and how to correct them. (Don’t worry, some of us are guilty of point five.)
#1 Putting too much emphasis on SPF value
One of our first beauty memories of sunscreen would probably be choosing between rows and rows of Coppertone or Banana Boat sunscreens. The higher the SPF value, the better. It made sense: After all, the higher the value, the more time we can spend out in the sun. And the less we need to worry about the burning caused by UVB rays.
But it’s time to shake off this age-old belief. There’s a marginal jump – of just one per cent – in the amount of UVB rays blocked for SPF values 30 and 50. The former blocks out 97 per cent of UV rays while the latter blocks out 98 per cent.
It’s much better to reapply sunscreen instead of depending on one with a high SPF value. And just a little note for beauty novices, SPF values don’t add up, so layering sunscreens doesn’t help prolong the time you can spend out in the sun either.
#2 Neglecting UVA protection
What’s more important than SPF is the PA factor, which measures the amount of protection you can get from UVA rays. It’s easy to overlook this because the effects from UVA exposure are a lot less visible than the usual UVB. But a lot more damaging.
“While the surface and upper layers of the skin are equipped with certain defenses that may mitigate some aspects of photoaging, long UVA rays penetrate to the deepest part of the dermis,” says Dr Adam Geyer, Kiehl’s Consulting Dermatologist. “By reaching the dermis, long UVA rays are attacking collagen and elastin that are critical to providing the skin with youthful, structural support,” he added. Get ample protection from UVA rays by looking at PA factors of sunscreens. In this case, the higher the PA value the more protection you get.
Kiehl’s latest Ultra Light Daily UV Defense offers UVA protection of PA++++, the highest rating you can get now.
Instead of using the PA system, some brands may choose to label their sunscreens with “broad spectrum”, so look out for that, too.
You can find a whole list of chemical and physical sunscreen filters and their ability to block UVA rays here.
#3 Overestimating water resistance
There are many effective water resistant sunscreens these days. One we’re completely impressed with is Shiseido’s Global Suncare Perfect UV Protector. It glides onto the skin and leaves a silky smooth finish. What’s most interesting about it is that it is supposed to “strengthen the UV-protective veil when it comes into contact with water or perspiration”, says Shiseido’s Skincare Expert Glen Ek.
(Curious folks, a simple way to think of it is positive and negative ions. Water is positive, while the sunscreen is negative. When they come into contact with each other, the water particles fill spaces between the negative particles, binding them closer together.)
While it’s important to equip yourself with the best water-resistant formulas, especially in Singapore’s weather, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. A small action like wiping perspiration off your forehead during lunch can remove sunscreen from your face. So always remember to reapply – there are plenty of sun protection powders and cream foundations to make touching up easy.
Try Shiseido’s UV Protective Compact Foundation or Stick Foundation to supplement your sun protection routine.
#4 Applying too little
Most of us apply too little sunscreen. A whole shot glass worth should be applied to the entire body to get the actual sun protection stated on the product packaging. For the face, use a quarter or a third of a teaspoon as a gauge, and adjust it accordingly to the size of your face.
The problem we have though, is the oily residue some creamy sunscreens tend to leave behind. They almost “melt” off oily skins in our weather.
Stay matte with oil-control sunscreens or gel-textured ones like The Face Shop’s Natural Sun Eco Sebum Control Moisture Sun SPF40 PA+++ and Lancome’s UV Expert XL-Shield Fresh Aqua Gel. They both have light textures and feel cool on the skin.
#5 Not applying sunscreen indoors
“External rays such as UVA are considered [to have the] longest wavelength and are able to stretch through glass windows,” says The Face Shop trainer Cariscia Teo.
That’s enough reason to be applying sunscreen, if you ask me (see point #2).
Even if you don’t sit near a window there are other sources of UV rays you need to be cautious about.
“Indoor lighting and light projected out of computers and office ceiling lights produce UV rays as well,” adds Cariscia.
#6 You don’t give enough time for your sunscreen to absorb before going under the sun
Unless if your sunscreen contains purely physical filters – that work immediately on the skin – you will not get full protection from it if you go under the sun straightaway after application.
“Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin,” says The Face Shop trainer Carisica Teo.
This is because most sunscreens are made with both chemical and physical filters. The former usually needs a little bit of time on the skin to work effectively.