Sunscreen 101

Sunscreen 101:
Understanding the science, formulas, and benefits of wearing sunscreen

Summer temperatures are quickly approaching, which means the sun is out in full force. And as much as we love our skin to be kissed by the sun, it’s important that we understand the importance of sunscreen, and why it’s essential to wear an SPF year-round. So, this month we’re going to share some knowledge and tips on how to navigate choosing a sunscreen, why it’s important to wear sunscreen year-round, and which sunscreen application is right for you.

Making The Case for Sunscreen: There are so many myths that deter people from using sunscreen for one reason or another, but we kindly ask that you tune out sunscreen “gossip” and protect yourself from the sun’s rays as much as possible. To start, it’s important to note that there are two types of sunscreens: Physical blockers that reflect ultraviolet rays from the sun, and chemical blockers that contain chemicals that absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays. We’ll get into the details about the benefits of their formulas below, but what you need to know here, is that neither is a wrong choice; you simply need to choose the sunscreen that’s right for you, and your skin. 

Tell Me About SPF: So why wear sunscreen, even if you have “darker skin that tans well?” Here’s what we do know: SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent, and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of rays. And while there is no sunscreen that blocks all UV rays, it’s recommended that you pick an SPF for your personal needs (including your outdoor environment) as well as supplementing with other sun protective measures, such as wearing hats, sun-protective clothing, and more. Sunscreen is essential for skin cancer prevention, including melanoma prevention, which has boatloads of science to make the case for always wearing sunscreen. Additionally, sunscreen helps with aging effects from the sun including skin cracking and leathery-texture, which is why it’s recommended that everyone form sun-protective habits. These habits include wearing sunscreen, sun-protective clothing (including hats), and sun avoidance, especially when temperatures are high. 

Navigating Sunscreen Formulas: As we noted above, there are two types of sunscreens – physical blockers and chemical blockers – but how do they work? According to the University of Chicago Medicine, “Sunscreens are classified as both organic, or chemical, and inorganic, or physical. Organic compounds, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, work like a sponge to absorb UV radiation. Inorganic compounds, containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, shield the skin to reflect and scatter UV radiation. A broad-spectrum sunscreen contains compounds that absorb and/or reflect UVB rays in addition to UVA rays, which cause skin aging and wrinkles. Many types of sunscreen available in the U.S. combine organic and inorganic compounds to provide this kind of broad-spectrum protection.” So now that you understand some of the formulas for sunscreen, you may be asking yourself, which is best for me? Again, we turn to experts at UC Medicine who note, “Organic sunscreens are usually easier than inorganic sunscreens to rub into the skin without leaving white residue. People with sensitive skin should use inorganic sunscreen since it’s hypoallergenic and less likely to irritate your skin. Creams are best for dry skin. Lotions are thinner, less greasy, and generally preferred for large body areas. Gels are good for hairy parts of the skin such as the scalp. Sprays are sometimes preferred because they’re easier to apply, especially on children. However, it’s difficult to know if you’re applying enough to cover a specific area. Spraying into your hands first helps to make sure that you’re adequately covered as well as to avoid inhalation. You could also consider applying cream initially, then using spray when re-applying.” Regardless of application preference, there’s no one-size-fits-all sunscreen formula, it’s more about how you are tailoring your sunscreen into your daily skincare routine for your specific needs. 

Sunscreen Year Round: During the winter months our skin goes through some dramatic changes – dryness, cracking, itchiness – you name it, we’ve all experienced it. So it’s not uncommon for us to toss our sunscreen into the back of our cupboards and not think about it again until the summer months. However, time and again, experts recommend wearing sunscreen, or SPF year-round. But why? It’s pretty simple if you think about it – we go outside almost every day and expose ourselves to the sun, even if it’s brief or not as heat-intensive, we’re still outside. And when our skin is unprotected from the sun’s intense rays, that can open the door to potential cancer and premature aging. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. Maybe that sounds extreme, and we understand; so let’s ask this question, “Have you ever gotten sunburnt on a cloudy day?” Almost all of us have at some point. Well, the same case can be made for wearing sunscreen on cloudy days in the summer, as well as in the winter – your skin is still exposed to the sun. And while exposing your skin to the sun in the middle of February may not result in a sunburn, there is subtle damage being done to your skin, which adds up over time and can lead to pre-mature aging and potentially other serious complications and consequences. So for these, and all of the reasons we noted above and more, sunscreen should be an essential part of your skincare routine.

To get a jump-start on your summer skin, including learning more about sunscreen and SPF protection, check-out some of the specials Stonedrift Spa is featuring during the month of June, including offers on hydration products, pampering treatments, and more.

In the meantime, we’d love to learn more about your skincare routine and how you plan to protect yourself this summer. Share some of your favorite summer skincare tips with us on any of our social media channels, as we love connecting with you!

With warmth and wellness,
-Abbi Porter, Spa Director