Sunscreens for Summer: Busting myths and selection tips

It's important to apply sunscreens during Summers to protect oneself from tanning and sun burns. But there are some who still have doubts. Here's an attempt to quell those concerns and help you select the right sunscreen for yourself.

Written by Dr Deepali Bhardwaj , Shruti Chakraborty | New Delhi | Updated: April 17, 2017 12:01 pm
Woman apply sunscreen Here are some tips on how to select and use sunscreens this Summer. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Summers are here, and the time has come to ditch your winter creams for yet another layer of protection for your skin — the sunscreen. Sunscreens not only prevent the skin from tanning, but mainly help guard ourselves against skin burns, photoageing, wrinkling pigmentation problems, etc., and in extreme cases, even skin cancer. In fact, sunscreens should be used all through the year, and even during monsoons.

The skin must be protected with a sunscreen that provides protection from both ultraviolet A and B rays of the sun. According to specialists, UVB rays affect the outer layer of skin and mainly cause sun burns. Their intensity is the highest between 10am and 2pm, which is when the sun is usually the brightest. Similarly, UVA rays are said to cause premature ageing. This is why it is important to choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB.

Also read: 20 essential tips to prevent, and treat, excessive hair loss

Exposing oneself to the sun for a long period can also result in loss of moisture, and that’s where sunscreens with built-in moisturisers come in. In fact, you need to apply a moisturiser separately only of your skin is extremely dry. It is essential to apply sunscreen whenever you’re going out into the sun, not only on the face, but also on all exposed areas, especially the back of your neck and your arms.

Here are some tips on how to select and use sunscreens this Summer:

* Use a waterproof sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF (sun protection factor) to protect yourself from the sun’s harsh UVA and UVB rays. For oily skin, use a gel-based sunscreen, while those with combination and dry skin, should use a sunscreen moisturiser with matte-finish, especially if you intend to put make-up on it, else a cream-based one that gets absorbed well without leaving a residual layer would also work. For those with sensitive skin, make sure you consult your dermatologist for the right kind of sunscreen.

Also read: Essential summer skincare tips for oily skin

* Always make sure to change the brand of sunscreen you use every six months, so as to ensure the best protection for your skin, and also so that your skin doesn’t become immune to any particular kind/brand or the same set of contents.

* Make sure that the sunscreen is the first thing you apply on to your skin, which will act as a block for the UV rays. Apply your day cream over that, then a foundation or BB cream.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the selection and use of sunscreens. Here we attempt to clear the air, and bust some popular myths:

* While selecting a sunscreen, it’s important to remember that higher the SPF, the more effective it is likely to be. But the SPF matters only when the wearer is exposed to the sun continuously for long hours. For most Indian skins, any sunscreen with SPF 26 and above is sufficient. Also, be it SPF 26 or SPF 50, both need to be reapplied after three hours if you’re going to be under the sun for a long time. It’s always a good idea to keep your sunscreen bottle with you at all times.

Also read: Try these healthy citrus salads this summer

* Some people think that sunscreens leave a white mark on the face, which is why they avoid using it. But that is not the case, especially with routine sunscreens. Only those with a physical blocker — the kind usually used by sportsmen — leave a white mark.

* The more expensive a sunscreen is does not mean that it will be better. What actually matters is that you should apply the suncreen 10-15 minutes before going in the sun, and then reapply it every three hours, if you continue being exposed to the sun. Also, while purchasing a bottle, make sure than the contents should clock both UVA and UVB rays.

* Though, initially sunscreens did contain PABA, or para-aminobenzoic acid, a nutrient that could result in some allergic reactions, sunscreens manufactured after 2003 rarely contain any PABA. So, rest assured and lather up!

* Sunscreens do not lead to vitamin D deficiency. This has been scientifically proven, so don’t worry and start protecting your skin.

* Another misconception regarding sunscreen use is that people with skin allergies or sensitive skin should not use it. Wrong again! In fact, sunscreen is mandatory for such people, else skin conditions like rosacea may develop. But for sensitive skin people, choose a sunblock with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide instead of chemicals like PABA, dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. Definitely avoid sunscreens with alcohol, fragrances or preservatives.

Also read: 6 tips to keep your skin healthy in summers

For those concerned about whether sunscreens actually impair the production of vitamin D in the body, there is good news too. US researchers have found a new sunscreen, Solar D, that guarantees no loss of vitamin D, rather allows the body to produce the essential vitamin, a deficiency or insufficiency of which causes major health problems in both adults and children.

There is another study that raised an alarm among people, which said that sunscreens can have an adverse effect of sunscreens on the functioning of sperm cells. But more research needs to be done on the subject to say something conclusively.

In the meantime, as long as you apply sunscreen while going out into the sun, and then wash yourself — which is also good hygiene — once your’re back indoors, you should be safe.

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