It has become really hot here in Berlin, and there’s no denying any more: it’s summer!
Before you run off into the sun to get ice cream, or chill at the beach, let’s talk proper sun protection real quick, though.
I think by now it’s firmly established that to wear sunscreen is a must all year round, but why exactly is that?
Most know that prolonged sun exposure can cause sunburns, but that is only one of many “degenerative changes in the cells, fibrous tissue and blood vessels of the skin.” UV rays also account for a whopping 80% of skin aging, including wrinkles, pigmentation, reduced skin elasticity, dry, leathery and coarse skin texture as well as yellowing! Not to mention the increased risk of several types of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, and damages to our immune system that the exposure to UVA and UVB rays of the sun can cause. [Source 1, 2.]
So yes, sun protection is important. Besides staying out of the sun during peak hours between 10 am – 4 pm, and wearing protective clothing, such as hats and long sleeves, sunscreen is one of the most important as well as effective measures against the aforementioned health risks.
Here’s how to go about sunscreen.
I. Your guide to shopping for the perfect sunscreen
How much SPF?
Anything between SPF 30 and 50 is ideal! However, do not rely on only the amount of SPF!
SPF is actually a totally outdated way to label sunscreen, as it merely refers to the level of protection against harmful UVB rays. But UVA is dangerous for our skin too: it accelerates skin aging and causes DNA damage as well as cancer.
In the West, there are no units that point out the level of UVA protection yet, while in Asia, “PA+” specifies lowest, “PA++++” highest level of UVA protection. Still, look for the words “broad spectrum” on the labels. They tell you that an UVA filter is included in the sunscreen.
Physical sun blockers or chemical sun filters?
skinacea.com has a hard to beat overview table giving you the lowdown on physical sun blockers vs. chemical filters, explaining also how each work and what to pay attention to. Check it out → here ←!
Which to buy?
All of the following are stellar products with a lightweight texture that offer not only high levels of SPF, but UVA protection too.
♣ Bioré Aqua Rich UV Face Mousse SPF 50+ PA+++ and Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+ PA++++ are my favorite face sunscreens. They both absorb fast and are absolutely non-greasy. While the Mousse excels with a mix of physical sun blockers and chemical filters, the Essence goes on more or less invisible. (1)
♣ Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Moisturizer SPF 50 contains a good deal of silicones, which makes this work well as a make up base. But for skin types prone to clogged pores such as mine, the texture could prove a little rich. (2)
♣ Eucerin’s Sun Fluid Mattierend LSF 50+ comes with a subtle yellow tint to cancel out the white cast caused by its physical sun blockers, and dries down completely matte. It’s an affordable face sunscreen easily available throughout Europe. (3)
♣ Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50+ WetForce is the best sunscreen for the beach or swimming pool as it stays strong even through water exposure or extreme perspiration thanks to its special “WetForce technology”. (4)
♣ Clinique’s Sun Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Sunscreen Body Cream is suitable even to use on the face, but it does leave behind some oil slick. Use this on the body instead of moisturizer, and you’re good to go! (5)
II. How to apply sunscreen – the right way
Before or after moisturizer?
Glad we cleared that up now.
The right way to apply sunscreen?
You probably didn’t know and consequently never did this, but instead of rubbing, you should pat your sunscreen on!!!
Sunscreen actually works not by sinking into the skin, but by forming a protective shield on top of it, where the sunblockers or filters either deflect, or absorb and then dissipate harmful UV rays. However, by rubbing on your sunscreen, coverage becomes highly irregular, (as you can clearly see here,) and areas where sun protection is most needed – such as the forehead or your nose – easily get neglected. By patting on your sunscreen, on the other hand, you are able to ensure the coverage is even all over and you can also better control where your sunscreen goes. Plus, this way it is easier to layer on your sunscreen in the appropriate amounts. ↓
(In case you apply foundation on top, forgo the rubbing here as well. In order to not compromise your even layer of sunscreen, either pat it on with your fingers, or use a sponge, such as the Beauty Blender. Alternatively, use a compact powder or a Korean cushion foundation, like the Hera UV Mist Cushion SPF 50+/PA+++, to dab on your base make up.)
How much sunscreen how often?
Wear sunscreen, but not too sparingly!
For the whole face – including neck and ears – 1/2 teaspoon is the approximate amount of sunscreen needed to ensure optimal UVA and UVB protection.
For the whole body, use a full shot glass. Of course, in the city you’ll need considerably less, since you’re covered up more, but still apply liberally!
Also, sunscreen really only works for two hours. After that – or after swimming – it is necessary to re-apply.
III. Sun protection on-the-go
Tipps for re-applying sunscreen?
Even if it’s a huge hassle, do take a few minutes of your time, grab a cleansing wipe – I totally recommend the MAC Wipes or Boots No7 Beautiful Skin Quick Thinking Wipes – and leaving out your eyes, eyebrows and lips, remove grease, sweat, dirt as well as foundation, if you wear any. Then re-apply.
And no, there are no shortcuts.
Why SPF in your make up is not enough
It’s tempting to think that if your moisturizer or foundation has SPF, additional sunscreen is unnecessary. But remember? Half a teaspoon for the complete face! I doubt you’ll want to apply that much foundation.
Similarly, powders with SPF or mist-type face sunscreens sound great in theory and allow for quick and convenient touch-ups. However, the same problem applies here as well, and you’d be ill-advised to rely on those alone for sun protection.
In conclusion, there’s no way around it: you should always wear sunscreen – separately. Half a teaspoon is the minimum, and anything less is – put frankly – wasted effort and product.
Extra benefits to removing and re-applying your sunscreen?
Keep in mind that if you let dried up sweat, oil, sebum and dirt all mixed up with your foundation sit on your face all day, then not only clogged pores are inevitable. The mixture will also “easily become a hotbed of unwanted bacteria and free radicals, so stay aware! Plus, when our sweat evaporates, it robs our skin from moisture and throws off the pH-balance of our skin surface, which brings about rough skin and accelerates skin aging.” [Source in Japanese.] So taking off your make up and/or sunscreen at least once during the day to re-apply in the summer has more than just one benefit to it.
How to take it off
Time for bed? Most sun filters are oil-soluble and therefore very difficult to remove. Wash your face by double-cleansing first with an oil-, then with a water-based cleanser to thoroughly clear your skin from any residues. Then follow up with skin care enriched with antioxidants, such as Vitamin C or Green tea. Antioxidants fight free radicals and thus protect your skin from sun damage, which continues to form even long after you went out from the sun – so beware!
I know sunscreen is a hassle, but it’s for the better of our skin and health, and can make a huge difference several years later down the road. Now if you’re still weary of wearing sunscreen, though, Chinese aunties know a good alternative :) Have fun at the beach!