Learn to choose the right sunscreen for your needs.
1. The Difference Between PA and SPF
The PA level on a sunscreen measures the UVA protection it provides. UVA rays have the ability to penetrate deeper into skin to affect the dermis is one of the main causes premature ageing like wrinkles, dryness and pigmentation. Having a sunscreen with a high PA level is especially important for people leaving in Singapore because in Southeast Asia, we are exposed to higher levels of UVA rays.
In 1996, the Japanese Cosmetic Industry Association (JCIA) introduced a three-tiered PA grading to measure UVA protection. UVA protection is measured with the Japanese developed Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) method.
However, a few years ago, the JCIA has modified their PA system to accommodate the higher UVA protection that sunscreens now provide. Presently, sunscreens with PA++++ provide the greatest protection against UVA damage and consequently, photoageing.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor), on the other hand, measures the level of UVB protection. UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburn, skin damage and can also contribute to skin cancer. The number of your SPF signifies the number of times longer it will protect your skin from burning.
For example, if your skin would typically burn after 10 minutes in the sun, then an SPF 20 would prevent it from burning for 20 times longer (approximately 200 minutes). However, regardless of how high your sunscreen’s SPF levels, most experts and doctors would recommend reapplication every two hours if you’re under the sun.
2. Infrared Damage Is A Big Deal
While it’s important to protect against UVA and UVB rays, the damages caused by the lessen known infrared rays should not be neglected. Infrared rays pass through the upper layer of our skin into the dermis and generates free radicals in our skin. These free radicals activate the breakdown of cells and collagen, leading to accelerated ageing.
We are often unknowingly exposed to infrared rays as they can be found in several commonplace appliances like microwaves. And because of their long wavelength, infrared rays can penetrate through both chemical and physical sunscreens. To neutralise the damage and reduce the breakdown of collagen activated by these rays, doctors recommend using skincare with antioxidants like vitamins C or E.
Alternatively, you can also choose to use a sunscreen that has ingredients to protect skin’s collagen, like the Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, contains the ingredient Artemia Salina, which is said to be able to increase skin collagen’s natural defense and resistance response to UV exposure and heat stress.
3. Texture Is Very Important
You might think that this isn’t a big issue, but texture is actually a main reason why most people are no applying sufficient sunscreen. To break it down for you, a 50-cent dollop is recommended for just your face. If you want to include your entire body? Then experts say two tablespoons is the norm.
However, because of its creamy texture, most people are under applying their sunscreen, which undermines its effectiveness. Thankfully, many sunblocks today come in lighter textures – like gels, essences or liquids – that are quickly absorbed and leave no residues on skin. This is possible because newer UV-absorbing chemicals have been formulated in recent years that not only provide broader spectrum of protection but can still be “dissolved” in a lighter base.
4. Physical sunscreens no longer leave heavy, whitish finishes
If you have very sensitive skin, then you’ve probably been told to use a physical sunscreen instead of a chemical one. A physical sunscreen sits on the surface of skin and acts like a shield to reflect and scatter UV rays. Because they do not interact with the proteins on our skin, physical sunscreens are less likely to irritate or cause an allergic reaction, compared to chemical sunscreens.
Despite the fact that physical sunscreens are more suitable for sensitive skin and provide better UV protection, they are often passed over for chemical sunblocks as they have a coarser texture and leave a visible, white finish on the complexion. However, new technology has helped to improve their feel and appearance.
A version of this article originally appeared in www.femalemag.com.sg.