SPF: Your First Line of Defense
in Skin Care
Here’s your guide to understanding more about those pervasive UV rays and what you can do to level up your daily skin care routine.
Whether you live in a city that has all four seasons or one that lets you flaunt your beach body year-round, one thing remains constant: exposure to the sun’s penetrating UVA and UVB rays. While it might not seem intuitive to apply sunscreen during inclement weather, the reality is that the human body is no match for the sun’s radiation; and unfortunately, the sun can still do a lot damage to your skin in even the harshest conditions.
Thankfully, though, there was a God among us who discovered the power of SPF to combat your greatest skin care demons. Fear not, SPF is here to save your skin!
Let’s talk about SPF, baby.
Sun Protection Factor, more commonly known as SPF, is a measure that determines how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) B rays over a period of time. These rays are the culprit behind your visible sunburn and are able to cause damage to the top layers of your skin. UVB rays are the rays that make a bright sunny day. Furthermore, UVB rays are one of the greatest contributing factors to the development of skin cancers. The intensity of UVB rays varies depending on the time of day and position of the sun. They can also cause even more significant damage to your skin when you are in higher altitudes or in the presence of reflective surfaces, like snow and water. UV rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. A good way to remember this is by using the use the shadow rule.
What’s the deal with UVA rays?
Although UVA rays are not factored into the equation for determining a sunscreen’s SPF, they are equally important to discuss. Unlike UVB rays, UVA rays are likely the reason for your sun-kissed tan during the summer (or the one you can get—but should avoid—from a tanning bed). However, the longer wavelengths of UVA rays allow them to penetrate the skin much deeper than UVB rays, making it the worst offender for your skin. UVA rays penetrate into the dermal layer of your skin, VERY DEEP, damaging your precious collagen and elastic. This damage accelerates premature aging, such as developing wrinkles, age spots and loss of elasticity to the skin which causes sagging. While UVB rays fluctuate in strength throughout the day, UVA rays remain consistent during daylight hours all year long. As more research became available about the risks of exposure to UVA rays, broad spectrum sunscreens were developed to provide coverage for both UVA and UVB rays.
So should sunscreen be a part of my daily skin care routine?
If the above hasn’t convinced you yet, then I am here to tell you YES, YES, YES!! Even if you have no sunshine on a cloudy day, UVA rays are still coming through, and strong, the clouds. UVA rays also penetrate through windows, so sunscreen should be worn even when you are staying indoors. Your skin is constantly being exposed to the sun’s powerful UV radiation on a daily basis and broad-spectrum sunscreen can actively diminish the impact of these harmful UV rays on your skin. UVA and UVB rays have damaging effects on everyone, no matter your skin tone. If you won’t take my word for it, here are visible examples of the suns damaging effects on the skin.
This is a 69-year-old man who drove a delivery truck for 28 years. You can see the left side of his face dramatically shows more signs of aging. While driving, the left side of his face was exposed to UVA radiation through his trucks window. He never wore sunscreen and UVA rays penetrate through windows. You can see the left side of his face has deeper wrinkles and sagging compared to the right side of his face. This image demonstrates how your skin will age with and without using sunscreen. In case you are still not convinced of wearing sunscreen every single day, here is another example.
These are 61 year old twins sisters. Susan on the right, not only smokes but likes to spend as much time in the Florida sun as possible. Compared to her sister Jeanne who spends as little time in the sun as possible. Researchers estimated that Susan not only looks 11 years older, but her skin has aged dramatically compared to her sister. She has dark spots, deep wrinkles, and sagging skin. Lifestyle plays a huge role in how we age. Here the sisters had different lifestyles where smoking, stress and sun exposure all played a part.
Chemical vs Physical Sunscreen
There are also differences between chemical and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays whereas physical sunscreens deflect them; this also means chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and physical sunscreens sit on top of the surface of the skin. Common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone, while the active ingredients in physical sunscreens include minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. At Cynthia Rivas Skin Care, we recommend using physical sunscreens our favorite ingredient being zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is a broadspectrum in nature, meaning it will cover all of UVA and UVB rays. We do make an 1 exception for the chemical sunscreen ingredient octinoxate when it is encapsulated and cannot be absorbed into the skin. No matter which option you select, it’s important to see how your body responds to the sunscreen in order to prevent side effects like clogged pores or skin irritation. Also be sure to review the product’s directions for when to reapply; but generally speaking, you should reapply every 2 hours at a minimum.
Our Top Sunscreen Picks
Creams are strongly recommended for application on the face and neck because they can be liberally applied to make sure you get even coverage. Here are some recommendations per skin type.
A sunscreen that is great for all skin types, especially acneic, oily, combination and sensitive skin types is Elta MD UV Clear. It leaves no white residue, it’s not thick or greasy.
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Elta MD UV Clear also comes in a tinted formula, which is great for anyone looking for an option that can double as both a sunscreen and makeup in one. The tint is a great universal shade and can be used on all skin tones. It gives very light makeup coverage. If you are looking for heavier makeup coverage, Supergoop!s CC Cream offers excellent broadspectrum protection but buildable makeup coverage.
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If you have normal to dry skin and are looking for an option that can double as both a sunscreen and a moisturizer, try Elta MD UV Daily.
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A great option for reapplying sunscreen during the day when you are wearing makeup, is Supergoop!s 100% Mineral Invincible Setting Powder. It contains 24.5% zinc oxide for great UVA and UBA protection.
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So next time you have plans to go to the beach, down the ski slopes or even on a quick errand, don’t forget the most important part of your daily skin care checklist: apply—and reapply—your sunscreen!
If your skin has signs of premature aging or other conditions related to sun damage, check out more information about [insert treatment for sun damage] or schedule a 1 on 1 virtual consultation [insert link for consultation] with me to discuss your skin care needs.♡