Sunscreen is not just a summer essential; it’s a daily necessity. Our skin, while resilient, is constantly exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. 

Even on overcast days, UV rays can penetrate the atmosphere, leading to skin damage, discoloration, and an increased risk of skin cancer. 

While we offer several treatments that repair the adverse effects of exposure to UV rays, some harm is irreversible.

Here’s why you should make sunscreen a non-negotiable part of your skincare routine:

  1. Reduce the Risk of Sunburn: Sunburns aren’t just painful; they’re a sign of skin damage. Continuous sunburns can lead to skin cancer, premature wrinkling, and other skin issues. Even tanning beds, often mistakenly considered safer, can cause sunburns and increase the risk of skin complications.
  2. Prevent the Signs of Aging: Sun exposure damages elastin, collagen, and skin cells, leading to premature aging signs like discoloration, wrinkles, and a leathery appearance. This type of aging, known as photoaging, is preventable with daily sunscreen use.
  3. Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer: Daily sunscreen application, even on cloudy days, significantly reduces the risk of skin cancer. By age 70, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. Using sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 can lower this risk.
  4. Prevent Skin Discoloration: Sunspots or liver spots are areas of skin discoloration that often develop later in life. Regular sunscreen application can prevent these spots from appearing.
  5. Reduce Inflammation: UV exposure can cause skin inflammation, especially in individuals with skin conditions like psoriasis or rosacea. Daily sunscreen use can prevent this inflammation.

Why is it so Important to Apply Sunscreen After Having a Facial?

Lady applying sunscreen on her cheeks and nose wearing a large hat.

Applying sunscreen after having a facial or salon treatment is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Increased Sensitivity: Many facial treatments, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser treatments, remove the top layer of skin or cause minor skin trauma. This leaves the skin more vulnerable and sensitive to UV rays.
  2. Prevention of Hyperpigmentation: After treatments, the skin is more susceptible to discoloration and hyperpigmentation when exposed to the sun. Sunscreen can help prevent these unwanted side effects.
  3. Protection of Results: To maintain the benefits of the facial or treatment and ensure the best results, it’s essential to protect the skin from potential sun damage. UV exposure can counteract the positive effects of the treatment.
  4. Avoiding Further Damage: If you’ve sought a facial or treatment to address sun damage or aging, it’s counterproductive to expose your freshly treated skin to the sun without protection. Doing so can exacerbate existing issues or create new ones.
  5. Redness and Inflammation: Post-treatment skin can be red and inflamed. Sun exposure can worsen this inflammation and prolong the healing process.
  6. Enhanced Absorption: After certain treatments, the skin may absorb products more effectively. Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen ensures that the skin gets maximum protection.

In summary, after investing time and money in a facial or salon treatment, it’s essential to protect that investment and your skin’s health by applying sunscreen. It not only preserves the results of the treatment but also prevents potential complications and damage from UV exposure.

How Often to Reapply Sunscreen?

For optimal protection, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours when outdoors. If you’re swimming or sweating, it’s crucial to reapply more frequently. Even water-resistant sunscreens can wear off with time and exposure to water.

What Do the SPF Sunscreen Numbers Mean?

Different SPF sunscreen numbers with a question mark wondering what the numbers mean.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, indicating the level of protection against UVB rays. 

Contrary to popular belief, SPF doesn’t tell you how long you can stay in the sun without burning. Instead, it refers to the amount of UV radiation required to produce sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin compared to unprotected skin. For instance:

  • SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV rays
  • SPF 30 blocks 97% of UV rays
  • SPF 50 blocks 98% of UV rays

It’s essential to understand that the increase in protection is marginal as the SPF number rises. However, for those with sensitive skin or a history of skin cancer, even that small percentage can make a difference.

Why is Sunscreen so Important in South Africa?

Skin cancer ranks as the most prevalent cancer globally. Given that South Africa records some of the world’s highest ultraviolet (UV) levels, it also has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer globally.

It’s always important to apply sunscreen even if it’s a cold, cloudy day, as clouds permit around 80 to 85% of UV rays to pass through.

Look for sunscreens with the CANSA Seal of Recognition that offer broad spectrum protection, shielding against both UVA and UVB rays. 

Depending on your skin type, always use a sunscreen with an SPF ranging from 20 to 50. 

Additionally, ensure you wear sunglasses rated UV400 to safeguard your eyes from UV damage.

How Long Does SPF 30 Last?

SPF 30 doesn’t indicate the duration of protection but rather the level of protection it offers. Specifically, SPF 30 means that theoretically, it will take 30 times longer for skin protected with SPF 30 sunscreen to burn compared to unprotected skin, under the same sun exposure conditions.

However, in practical terms, regardless of the SPF rating, it’s recommended to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming, to ensure continuous protection. This is because sunscreen can wear off, get rubbed away, or become diluted due to sweat or water.

It’s also important to note that SPF 30 does not offer double the protection of SPF 15. While SPF 15 filters out approximately 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters out about 97%. The increase in protection is marginal as the SPF number rises.

What is the Difference Between a Chemical and a Mineral Sunscreen?

Different types of chemical and mineral sunscreens

Sunscreen and sunblock are both topical products designed to protect the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, they function differently and have distinct characteristics:

  1. Mode of Action:
    • Chemical: Sunscreens are often referred to as chemical sunscreens. They contain organic (carbon-based) compounds that absorb UV radiation. When UV rays hit the skin, the compounds in sunscreens absorb these rays, transform them into heat, and then release them from the skin.
    • Mineral: Sunblocks, commonly known as physical or mineral sunscreens, contain inorganic compounds like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They act as a physical barrier that sits on the skin’s surface and reflects or scatters the UV rays, preventing them from penetrating the skin.
  2. Appearance:
    • Chemical: Typically, sunscreens are more transparent and less noticeable on the skin. They are often preferred for daily use because of their less visible finish.
    • Mineral: Sunblocks can be thicker and might leave a white cast on the skin due to the mineral ingredients. However, many modern formulations are micronized, which reduces the white appearance.
  3. Protection Spectrum:
    • Chemical: Chemical sunscreens can offer broad-spectrum protection, meaning they protect against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. However, the range of protection depends on the specific chemicals used, with many primarily only protecting from UV-B rays.
    • Mineral: Physical sunblocks naturally offer broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Reactivity:
    • Chemical: Some people might be sensitive or allergic to the chemical compounds in sunscreens, leading to skin irritation or allergic reactions.
    • Mineral: Physical sunblocks, being mineral-based, are often recommended for sensitive or reactive skin types as they are less likely to cause skin irritations.
  5. Environmental Impact:
    • Chemical: Some chemical sunscreens contain compounds like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been found to harm coral reefs. As a result, these ingredients have been banned in some places with significant coral populations.
    • Mineral: Physical sunblocks are generally considered more environmentally friendly, especially when they are non-nano sized, as they are less harmful to marine life and coral reefs.

In choosing between chemical and mineral sunscreen, it’s essential to consider your skin type, activities (e.g., swimming, which might require water-resistant protection), and any environmental concerns. 

Chemical sunscreens tend to be more resistant to water and sweat. So, if you’re someone who frequently exercises, sweats heavily, or spends significant time in water, a chemical sunscreen might be more suitable for you. However, it’s worth noting that the formulations of physical sunscreens are improving with each passing year.

Since mineral sunscreens don’t initiate a chemical reaction upon application, their ingredients remain stable for longer. As a result, mineral sunscreens are believed to have a more extended duration on the skin compared to their chemical counterparts.

Regardless of the choice, it’s crucial to apply the product generously and reapply regularly for effective protection.

How to Reapply Sunscreen Over Make-up?

Reapplying sunscreen over makeup can be a challenge, but it’s crucial for maintaining skin protection throughout the day. Start with a strong foundation of SPF before applying any makeup. When it’s time to reapply:

  1. Use a Setting Spray with SPF: There are several makeup setting sprays on the market that contain SPF. These can be spritzed over makeup for added protection.
  2. Opt for Powder Sunscreens: These are brush-on products that can be swept over makeup, providing an added layer of protection without disturbing your look.
  3. Carry SPF-infused Makeup Products: Many foundations and powders now come with SPF. While they shouldn’t replace your primary sunscreen, they can be useful for touch-ups throughout the day.

In conclusion, sunscreen is a vital tool in maintaining healthy, youthful skin and preventing serious conditions like skin cancer, especially if living in a sunny place like South Africa. 

Whether you’re heading to the beach, driving to work, or just spending a day indoors, make sunscreen application a daily habit. Your skin will thank you!