Your Ultimate Guide to Sunscreen

I remember my mother telling me about a very old saying in Korea, “Send your daughter outside in the fall and your daughter-in-law outside in the spring”.  Roughly translated, it means one would send one own’s daughter out to the fields in the gentler fall sunlight and one’s daughter-in-law out in the spring, when the sunlight was stronger and thus more likely to cause sunburn and spots. (yikes!)

As you can probably glean from the quote, spring has always been considered a season in Korea where it’s particularly easy to get hyper-pigmentation and uneven skin tone. The days are becoming longer and skin is especially drier and more vulnerable emerging from a long winter. It’s tempting to bask in the warm spring sunlight without UV protection, but considering that UV exposure is the single largest contributor to premature aging, it’s definitely time to ramp up sunscreen use.

As many of you already know, I’m a vigilant sunscreen user and get a lot of SPF related questions – see below for my answers to some of the Qs I get asked most frequently!

Do I need to use a sunscreen daily? 
Absolutely, yes. UVB rays are stronger in the summer but UVA rays (what causes aging) are present in fairly similar levels year round.  Daily sunscreen use, year round, is highly recommended to protect the skin and to prevent aging.

Is the SPF in my moisturizer or foundation enough? 
In most cases, not really. When testing for SPF, chemists use what’s equivalent to a shot glass of product.  Most people apply less than an quarter or fifth of what is recommended for sufficient protection.  It’s thus best to use a formula that is specifically created for SPF protection after your moisturizer. Layering in a foundation or cushion compact with SPF afterwards will also help, but won’t be as comprehensive as using a standalone SPF product.

What SPF level do I need? 
Choosing an SPF 30 or 50 is sufficient – it doesn’t necessarily mean that a SPF 100 will give you triple  the protection of a SPF 30. It’s also important to look for products that have broad spectrum protection (meaning both UVA and UVB rays). In Korea, efficacy in blocking UVA rays are marked with PA+ signs. We recommend to look for products that have at least a PA++ or PA+++ marking on them). Reapplication is also key as all sunscreens degrade over time from sweat, sebum and UV exposure. Since this isn’t always feasible over make up, keeping a cushion compact with SPF handy can be an easy way to reapply protection throughout the day.

Which SPF product should I choose? 
It really depends on your skin type and texture preference. Sunscreens can be divided into physical filters and chemical filters. 

Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and create a physical block that deflects UV rays. Because they utilize ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, many formulas can leave a chalky cast on the skin. It’s great for blemish-prone skin, sensitive skin types and children and as it deflects UV rays, can help keep irritation or redness prone skin cool and calmed.

The new guard of sunscreens from Korea combine physical sunscreens with wearable textures. Make P:rem’s new UV Defense Me Natural Sun Cream (SPF 50, PA+++) is a good example of a lightweight physical sunscreen that melts into skin without leaving a ghostly cast. It’s formulated with copious amounts of good ingredients: birch sap, sea buckthorn, ivy leaf, and sunflower seed attracts to moisturize and nourish the skin. An added plus is that its texture works well as primer, creating a canvas that helps to grip make up that is applied afterwards.

See a demo of the texture here:
Chemical sunscreens, with ingredients such as avobenzone and octocrylene, absorb UV rays, so that the skin doesn’t. (The UV rays are converted into heat, which is then released) Thus it’s important to apply a chemical sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure so that the formula has time to work itself into the skin. Many chemical sunscreens have textures that are more spreadable and fluid than physical sunscreens and can work easily for all skin tones as there isn’t any chalkiness. When in direct light for prolonged periods of time, chemical sunscreens can degrade more quickly than their physical counterparts so it’s important to apply a sufficient amount and to reapply.  Make P:rem’s Capsule Sun Gel SPF 50 (photo below) and Goodal Sun Essence SPF 30 are two sunscreens with ultra lightweight gel textures that disappear into the skin in a flash. 
What else can I do to keep my skin protected?
Use a daily antioxidant serum. Antioxidants and SPF together are a golden combo that help protect the skin from the elements as well as neutralize any skin damaging free radical activity. My favorite options are the LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule, which is packed with antioxidant rich propolis extract or Huxley’s Oil Essence.
Got any other SPF related questions? Leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer. Stay covered this spring!
Get your glow on,
Christine

7 replies

  1. Hi Christine,

    Can you clarify what it means by chemical sunscreens
    “absorb UV rays into the skin”? Since we want to avoid UV rays, how does absorbing it protect the skin?

    Like

    • Hi! That’s a great question – I clarified the post above too. Chemical filters absorb the energy of UV rays instead of the skin and channel them into heat, which is then released. Hope this helps! – Christine

      Like

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