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do i really need to wear sunscreen everyday?

did you know that in singapore, skin cancer ranks sixth among males and seventh among females? such a prevalent condition with a blatantly easy prevention method, yet not a lot of people are incorporating sunscreens into their daily routine. common reasons you might hear for non-use of sunscreens are the distasteful stickiness on the skin, forgetting or neglecting to apply, or the frequently misunderstood concept that if you’re indoors, you won’t require sunscreen.

every single person should apply sunscreen everyday, no matter if you’re heading out or staying indoors. by virtue of just sitting beside a window, you are exposed to the sun’s rays, especially the deeper piercing uva rays. for the longest time, dermatologists have been advocating for the use of sunscreen to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun, prevent premature skin ageing and minimising risk of skin diseases like skin cancer.

why do i need to apply sunscreen even when indoors?

there are three types of damaging rays from the sun: uva, uvb and blue light. yes, the same ones emitting from our electronic devices. fortunately, the amount of blue light emitting from electronics is not enough to be a cause for worry.

uvb have shorter wavelengths. it directly damages the skin’s dna and is responsible for more immediate visible surface damage to the skin like sunburns. luckily for us, if you’re indoors, most windows are tinted to filter out uvb.

uva has a longer wavelength in comparison and penetrates past the epidermis (surface layer of your skin), resulting in degradation of your collagen and skin tissue, which in worst cases induces skin cancer. it is not filtered and can pass through glass. uva rays are especially deadly since it does not cause any visible damage to the skin until it is too late.

surprisingly, blue light, which is rarely discussed when talking about sun damage, is the one that can permeate past the dermis layer, reaching further into the skin. it can lead to an increase in the production of melatonin and free radicals, which are responsible for breaking down collagen and elastic tissue, and pigmentation of the skin respectively.

instead of avoiding the sun by staying indoors, the most effective way to prevent skin blemishes and diseases is the application of sunscreen, which are specially tailored to combat the ill effects of sun damage.

what to look for when choosing sunscreens

now that we know what is actually causing the damage to our skin, we are better able to prevent and protect our skin from taking any further damage. you will want to look for three factors: the minerals it contains, those that offer broad-spectrum protection and those that are water-resistant.

1) physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, are what we know as sunblocks. they usually contain active ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide which sits on the surface of the skin, acting as a shield to block the sun’s rays. they are usually recommended for people with sensitive and oily skin.

the other type, chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays with one or more of the following active ingredients: avobenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, or oxybenzone.

2) broad-spectrum sunscreens provide coverage for both uva and uvb rays. you might have noticed sunscreen labels using the spf (sun protection factor) and pa grading system. this indicates how much uvb and uva rays a sunscreen can filter out respectively.

typically, an spf level of 30 is sufficient for protection against 97% of uvb rays. anything above that has an almost negligible increase in coverage – spf 50 filters out just 1% more uvb rays yet costs much more. it is important to note that no sunscreen can provide 100% coverage.

pa grading is commonly seen in japanese sunscreens where grading ranges from pa+ to pa++++, with a maximum value of 16 which means that a person should be able to endure at least 16 times the uva rays before tanning.

3) water-resistance is crucial especially in singapore, where one can perspire just from sitting still at home. keep in mind that you should still reapply sunscreen every two hours after water activities or perspiring.

types of sunscreen applicators

now that you know how to select an appropriate sunscreen based on the labels, you’re faced with yet another decision: which type of sunscreen applicator should you choose? cream-based or gel-based? spray-on? stick?

generally, it is advised to avoid spray-on as it can be hard to apply an even coat onto your skin and it’s hard to judge how much is needed for adequate coverage. 10ml of lotion good for your face and neck area equates to around 30 sprays! keep in mind that after spraying, you must rub the applicant in to ensure an even coat.

creams are the best for dry skin and for the face while gels are better suited for hairy areas like the scalp. yes, scalp require care too, particularly because they’re one of the most exposed areas of the body. both are suited for oily or acne-prone skin as well. sticks on the other hand are gentle around the delicate eye area.

how much should i apply?

dermatologists point out that usually a person only uses 25 to 50% of the recommended amount for adequate coverage. so what is the actual amount to provide the protection our skin needs? generally, 2mg per square centimeter of skin is enough but how would people know how much is that exactly? here are some general guidelines:

● half teaspoon for both the face and neck

● 1 teaspoon for both upper limbs

● 2 teaspoons for both lower limbs

● 1 teaspoon for front of torso

● 1 teaspoon for back of torso

did you know that by rubbing the white sheen of the sunscreen vigorously, you’re losing around 20% of the spf effectiveness? instead, you should use circular motion to massage the formula into your skin. you’re also supposed to let sunscreen ‘marinate’ on your skin for a good 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours under prolonged outdoor exposure and exposure to water (perspiration included).

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