Protecting your skin from the sun is one of the most important stages in your skincare routine. Even if you keep to a very simple routine, just including sunscreen can make a big difference to your complexion in the short term and long term.
This is because a lot of the damage our skin experiences over time is due to the sun — sunlight is an important source of Vitamin D, but too much of it contributes to fine lines and can make any pigmentation issues (and other skin conditions) worse.
How does the sun damage your skin?
The sun produces UV radiation, and this radiation is split into three types: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC can’t penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, so the ones to be aware of are UVA and UVB.
UVA is the type of radiation that causes ageing of the skin. It can increase wrinkles and age spots (brown pigmentation), as well as contributing to skin cancer in places with high exposure. UVB rays are the ones that cause visible sunburn.
How does sunscreen work to protect your skin?
Sunscreens use either organic filters or physical filters. Organic filters work by absorbing UV radiation and convert it into infrared before giving it back out again.
Physical/inorganic filters contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which reflect the UV rays away from the skin.
So, do you use physical or chemical sunscreen?
There are so many types of sunscreen available that it can be confusing to make a choice. The first decision you need to make is whether to use a physical or chemical sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens are the ones that absorb UV rays. Lots of people prefer them to physical sunscreens because they are usually more cosmetically elegant — they typically soak into the skin without being visible and work well under makeup.
Physical sunscreens can often leave white marks on your face as they use zinc oxide or titanium oxide as physical barriers to protect the skin. However, they work well for people with very sensitive skin who might react to the ingredients in chemical sunscreens.
The main thing is you choose a sun cream that suits your skin. Always choose one that is SPF30 or above and notes on the product label that it has a UVB rating of around four stars. This means you will be getting a broad spectrum of sun protection that really combats all the damage that can be done to your skin.
When to apply sunscreen
Your sunscreen should be the last step in your morning skincare routine. So, it goes after any toners, moisturisers or other steps. This means it forms a barrier to protect your skin, allowing the active ingredients to work better as new damage to the skin is lessened.
Always apply sunscreen in your morning routine. Even if it appears cloudy outside, there are still UVA rays that can cause skin damage.
What about sunscreen in moisturisers?
There are some moisturisers that offer sun protection and can be used to combine these two steps into one in your routine. However, these often don’t provide adequate protection from the sun so make sure to check the details of the product so you are choosing one that still offers broad spectrum protection.
If you have very fair skin, or sensitive skin that is easily damaged by the sun, it’s best to choose a sunscreen separate from your moisturiser to make sure you’re fully protected.
Protecting your skin will help any skin concerns you have heal, such as hyper-pigmentation or acne. It will also help keep your skin glowing, as your skin is its healthier when UVA and UVB are kept out.