Why Is Sunscreen Important? And How to Choose the Right One

The sun is shining. The temperatures are rising. You (finally!) have time off work to get outdoors and make the most of the summer season.

Awesome, right? Just don’t forget to apply sunscreen before you leave the house. After all, you don’t want to have to worry about getting burnt.

But what exactly is sunscreen? Why is it important? And how do you pick the right one for you?

If you’re currently scratching your head, not to worry—we’ve got you covered with this tell-all guide.

The Importance of Sunscreen

First things first, what is sunscreen?

Also known as sun cream, suntan lotion, or sunblock, sunscreen is a spray, foam, gel or stick that you apply to your skin to protect it against ultraviolet (UV) light.

UV light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that can come from man-made sources as well as the sun, including:

  • Sunlamps and tanning beds
  • Phototherapy
  • Welding torches

And it can be extremely harmful for your skin—and your health.

How Does Sunscreen Work?

Sunscreen blocks and absorbs UV rays through both physical and chemical particles.

Physical particles, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, reflect UV radiation from the skin. On the other hand, chemical particles react with radiation before it penetrates the skin. They absorb the rays and then release the energy as heat.

It’s this combination of blocking and absorbing UV radiation that’s the most effective in combating both UVB and UVA rays.

UVB Versus UVA Rays

There are several different types of rays present in sunlight. However, there are two main types of ultraviolet rays that reach the ground and can be harmful to humans.

  • UVB: These rays are responsible for causing sunburn and even skin cancer. UVB rays can be the cause of malignant melanoma, the most severe kind of skin cancer.
  • UVA: These rays penetrate more deeply into the skin than UVB rays. They also play a role in the formation of skin cancer. That said, they play a greater role in causing premature skin aging, such as wrinkle formation.

Research shows that around 95% of the sun’s UV rays that affect us on earth are UVA rays and 5% are UVB rays. Therefore, it’s important to protect yourself from both.

The strength of the UV rays reaching the ground depends on many factors. They tend to be the strongest:

  • Between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
  • In the spring and summer months
  • The closer you are to the equator
  • At higher elevations
  • When bouncing off surfaces like sand, snow, water, pavement, or even grass

UV rays can even get through to the ground on a cloudy day.

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The Benefits of Wearing Sunscreen

There are endless benefits of wearing sunscreen every day.

1. It Reduces the Risk of Sunburn

Sunburn is the first sign that you’ve been affected by harmful UV radiation. This is often the result of being outside for too long in the sun while wearing sunscreen or being exposed to the sun without protection.

If you continuously get sunburnt, this damage can lead to skin cancer, premature wrinkling, and other skin issues.

2. It Prevents Early Signs of Aging

Premature aging, also known as photoaging, can occur when you spend too much time in the sun without sunscreen. It is particularly common in twenty- and thirty-year-olds.

The skin will change in appearance as we age. Although, these changes can be accelerated by sun exposure. 

Photoaging can include:

  • Wrinkles
  • Leathery skin
  • Pigmentation
  • A yellowish tint
  • Dark spots
  • Drooping skin
  • Broken blood vessels

The good news is that you can prevent the signs of photoaging just by wearing sunscreen daily.

3. It Reduces the Risk of Skin Cancer

Statistics show that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. In fact, having five or more sunburns can double your risk for melanoma.

Even though it may seem like a chore to cover every exposed area of your skin with sunscreen (yes, we know it’s sticky), it’s better to be safe than sorry. In fact, you can significantly lower your risk of developing this disease by reapplying sunscreen often when spending time outdoors.

4. It Minimizes Eye Problems

UV rays don’t just upset the skin. They can also cause eye problems, such as:

  • Inflammation or burning of the cornea (on the front of the eye)
  • The formation of cataracts (which can cloud the lens of the eye)
  • The formation of pterygium (which is tissue growth on the eye’s surface)

Both cataracts and pterygium can impair vision. Fortunately, most sunscreens are safe to use on and around the eyelid region.

(Just don’t put it in your eye, okay? Ouch.)

5. It Keeps the Immune System Strong

Lastly, exposure to UV rays can weaken the immune system, meaning that the body will find it harder to fend off infections.

If you experience sunburn, your skin will redden and cause pain. It can even swell and blister, resulting in the following flu-like symptoms:

  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Severe sunburn can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be very dangerous and requires medical assistance.

Some people are more sensitive to the unhealthy effects of UV radiation than others. It’s worth noting that there are certain medications and conditions that can make you more sensitive to UV radiation. In this case, you may be more likely to get burned.

Consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

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How to Pick the Right Sunscreen For You

Most people may not realize that there are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. While both of them offer protection against UVA and UVB rays, they’re actually very different!

Let’s explore them in more detail so that you can decide which one is best for you.

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreen is also referred to as mineral sunscreen, natural sunscreen, or sunblock.

Why? Well, it works by creating a barrier on the skin through mineral-based ingredients, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that block damaging UV rays. It effectively stays on the surface of the skin to deflect and scatter UVB and UVA rays away from the skin.

Some pros of physical sunscreen include:

  • You’re protected as soon as you apply it
  • It’s safe for use during pregnancy and on babies
  • It has a longer shelf life

Having said that, there are some cons of physical sunscreen:

  • It can appear white or chalky on the skin
  • It’s easy to sweat off so it needs to be applied more frequently
  • The texture is thick so it requires more effort to rub in

Do you have sensitive skin or a skin issue like psoriasis or rosacea? If so, you’re more likely to experience inflammation after being out in the sun.

In this case, the gentler ingredients of physical sunscreen make it an ideal form of protection that won’t aggravate your current condition. After all, some chemical sunscreens may contain harsh ingredients and alcohol, which can upset and dry out the skin.

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen contains chemical compounds, such as octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone, that absorb UV rays. These chemical compounds transform UV rays into heat, releasing them from the skin.

Some pros of chemical sunscreen include:

  • It’s thinner and more spreadable, making it easier to apply
  • There is less product needed to get full coverage
  • It can be used alongside other skincare products with ingredients like peptides and enzymes to give your skin a boost

There are some cons of chemical sunscreen too:

  • It only becomes effective after 20 minutes from application
  • Several ingredients have to be added to provide protection against UVB and UVA rays, which means it comes with a higher risk of irritation
  • It can clog pores and increase breakouts on acne-prone skin

Keep in mind that a lot of sunscreens currently on the market only contain ingredients that block UVB rays. Therefore, this would leave you vulnerable to harmful UVA radiation.

Always check the product label to ensure that the sunscreen is broad-spectrum, meaning that you’ll be protected from both types of UV rays.

Physical Versus Chemical Sunscreen

Both physical and chemical sunscreen have their benefits.

Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin so it’s less likely to block your pores if you have acne-prone or sensitive skin. Although, chemical sunscreen is important because it enables both inside and outer protection.

If your skin is tolerant to either form, it’s recommended that you use a combination sunscreen to get the best of both worlds and maximum protection.

Look for non-comedogenic ingredients on the product label that won’t clog your pores and reduce the risk of your skin breaking out. FYI, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both considered non-comedogenic. (Result!)

What SPF Should I Use?

Another element that you need to take into account when buying sunscreen is Sun Protection Factor, or SPF.

Hands up if you thought that SPF referred to the strength of protection? If so, you’re not the only one.

The truth is, SPF is an indicator of how much longer it would take for UV rays to redden the skin with sunscreen compared to without sunscreen. For instance, an SPF of 15 means it would take 15 times longer for the skin to burn while using the product.

So, what SPF should you use daily?

The FDA claims that you should use a minimum of SPF 15 for protection against sunburn and skin cancer. Even so, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before you head out for some fun in the sun.

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Sunscreen Application Tips

The golden rule of sunscreen is to wear it every day and apply it to every area of the skin that will be exposed. 

Even if it’s a cloudy day, you should still slather it on your skin.

How come? Well, up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays still get through the clouds. This is why some people end up getting serious sunburns on overcast days when they’re outside and haven’t applied sunscreen.

Make sure you reapply sunscreen every two hours and after sweating or swimming. Oh, and don’t forget to use lip balm with SPF—your lips are vulnerable to sunburns and chronic sun damage too!

Why You Should Exfoliate After Being in the Sun

Exfoliating your face is a great way to energize your skin after a day in the sun. This is especially important in the summer months when your skin requires extra hydration and protection.

Try using a facial cleansing massage brush that will give you a deep cleanse while buffering away old, dead skins and stimulating new cell growth.

In fact, applying your favorite cleanser to a sonic facial cleansing massager like meejee’s will remove any lingering sunscreen, dirt, oil, or makeup using sonic pulses to break apart impurities.

There are many types of facial cleansing massager brush, but a sonic one with silicone bristles will leave your skin feeling smooth, soft, and ultra-glowy.

What to Do if You Get Sunburn

We’ve all exposed ourselves to UV rays and experienced sunburn at least once in our lives, which leaves the skin red and swollen. However, if you find yourself in this situation again, this is just your friendly reminder to apply an aftersun product with cooling properties.

You could even give your skin the ultimate refreshment with meejee’s facial massage globes. These ice-cold glass facial globes can provide a cooling massage experience to reduce skin inflammation and soreness.

How to use facial cooling globes? Simply roll them over the face. They’re particularly helpful for sunburn if you apply a cooling facial moisturizer first.

Plus, by massaging in any kind of skincare product, you can improve their effectiveness. Just finish off your self-care session with a cooling facial spray. Bliss.

That said, if you ever develop severe sunburn with blisters, contact your dermatologist so that they can assess your skin. They should be able to suggest products to relieve any pain and minimize scarring.

When caught early, oral or topical steroids can prevent sunburn-related damage.

The Takeaway

Sunscreen is a skincare product that absorbs or reflects the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, thus helping to protect our skin against sunburn and skin cancer.

Apply sunscreen before heading outside every day and then thoroughly cleanse and exfoliate your skin at the end of the day with a facial cleansing massage brush. Complete your evening skincare routine with facial massage ice globes to induce a state of relaxation so you can drift off into a deep, peaceful sleep.