Sunscreen is as crucial in your skincare routine as your moisturiser, even if you’re spending most of your time indoors. It protects your skin from harmful UV exposure and inhibits early signs of ageing from developing. Regular and committed use of sunscreen has been known to boost skin health tremendously compared to only using it before stepping out. But what exactly do sunscreens do that make them the gatekeepers of youthful-looking skin? Let’s find out…
What does SPF mean?
SPF plays a crucial role in helping you pick the right product based on your skin’s needs. Simply put, the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates the amount of solar energy that is needed to cause sun damage when you're wearing sunscreen, as compared to when you are not. For instance, sunscreen with an SPF value of 50 can fight about 98% of the UV rays. Similarly, a sunscreen with an SPF 30 like the Lakmé Sun Expert SPF 30 Ultra Matte Lotion can block 97% of the rays. A rule of thumb is that anything above SPF 30 is good enough to give you sun protection, but if you anticipate longer hours of direct and high sun exposure, switching to an SPF 45 of 50 can come in handy!
What are the most popular sunscreen ingredients to look for?
Some of the popular ingredients in sunscreens are:
1. Zinc oxide - Zinc oxide is most commonly used in physical sunscreens as it helps reflect and scatter UV radiation to reduce sun damage. It is the safest and most effective ingredient to inhibit sun damage caused by UVA, UVB and UVC rays.
2. Titanium dioxide - An inert earth mineral, titanium dioxide is a physical sunscreen agent and works similar to zinc oxide in the sense that as it sits on your skin and helps in blocking and reflecting UV exposure. It is known to be very gentle and especially good for sensitive, redness and irritation-prone skin.
3. Avobenzone - A popular chemical sunscreen agent, avobenzone is a methane derivative that gets absorbed into your skin to cause a chemical reaction. It helps convert UV light into heat to inhibit the level of damage caused to your skin. Even though it is quite widely used, avobenzone is known to irritate dry and sensitive skin types and can stay in your system for a long time.
4. Octisalate - Also known as Ethylhexyl salicylate, octyl salicylate is also a popular ingredient used in chemical sunscreens. It is oil soluble in nature and is known to be a UVB filter. It is often used in combination with avobenzone because of its unstable nature and is quite oily in texture, making it a tricky product to work with. Look for this ingredient in your body sunscreens as it also has some water-resisting properties and can stay on the skin for longer hours as compared to the other ingredients on this list.
5. Homosalate - Homosalate works similar to the above mentioned chemical sunscreen ingredients. However, it is only effective against UVB rays and can still leave your skin exposed to the highly damaging UVA rays. The ingredient has caused some debate among experts on its safety of use as its long term use is known to cause build-up inside your body, leading to issues like the disruption of hormones and toxicity.