What Is Sun Protection Factor?

Beauty / Skincare
MD Alexandra Dorobantu
On Sep 22nd, 2020
Episode 4

Sunscreen usage minimises the risk of acne and sun damage, but it also decreases the impact of ageing and wrinkles. Learn the importance of applying SPF and what to look for on the label, as your third essential step of a minimalist skincare routine.


The final episode of the Skinimalism mini-series focuses on the third step of your minimalist routine: the sunscreen. Previously, we have explored how to cleanse and moisturise your face in order to have a healthy and glowing skin. Now, we are taking you one step further and talk about the importance to protect the skin by applying SPF.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Sun reflects two kinds of UV rays, UVA and UVB, which damage mainly your skin. UVA rays penetrate deeply, causing severe damage such as ageing, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

The UVB radiation has a shorter wavelength than the UVA radiation. Therefore, they burn your skin surface, causing immediate harm, such as sunburns and worst, skin cancer. 

SPF products ranging from 15 to 30, deliver moderate protection and are entirely safe to use on a daily/regular basis, especially on cloudy days or colder months. SPF 30 or more provides high protection and should be used in summer or always if you have fair skin. It is imperative to have in mind that sunblock does not last on your face all day due to sweating, so you should not forget to apply the product every 2 hours.

Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens

Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays. If you are applying your sunscreen the right way, then you don't have to worry about skin ageing, wrinkles, and worst skin cancer. In my professional opinion, you should always use 'broad-spectrum' sunscreens as they provide extra high protection.

How Often Do You Have to Apply Sunscreen?

There are a lot of claims of waterproof sunscreens on the internet. Let us debunk this myth. As a dermatologist, I must tell you that sunscreens only last about 2 hours on our faces. Swimming and sweating play a considerable role in that. So always reapply sunscreen, and further protect your skin by wear sunglasses and hats. Accessories are stylish and we have a few recommendations in our modern guide to straw hats.

Sunscreen Ingredients 

Sunscreens are not meant to be toxic or lead to inflammation and irritations. Product formulas should be sufficient to endure intense UV radiation without losing their potency. Sunscreens can protect the skin from harmful UV rays while not causing any epidermal damage.

You can choose from the two types of sunscreens: physical or chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens act like a sponge, while physical sunscreens function like a barrier on the skin by blocking sun rays. Both are very effective, and you should try each one to see how your skin reacts.

Physical Sunscreen 

Physical sunscreens have ingredients like mineral titanium dioxide (considered to be the safest and most effective) and zinc oxide. This perfect combo acts as a shield against harmful rays by scattering them before they are absorbed into the skin. If you have a sensitive complexion, this is your go-to sunscreen.

Chemical Sunscreen 

Chemical sunscreens (UV organic filters) have a different action mechanism from physical ones. They absorb UV rays before causing skin damage through a series of hard to pronounce ingredients like Avobenzone, Mexoryl SX, Tinosorb S, and M and Oxybenzone. This type of product is more convenient as it will not leave any white residue.

Should We Use Sunscreen in Winter or Not? 

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by patients in my office. YES! Everyone should apply sunscreen daily, regardless of the season, as you need to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays every day. UVB and UVA rays can penetrate the ozone layer and are active all year round. I see many patients with sunburns after going on a ski trip because snow is very reflective, acting as a mirror.

Sun exposure is one of the primary causes of uneven skin tone. Sunscreens can prevent premature ageing or hyperpigmentation, making your skin look young, vibrant and healthy.

A crucial step that I want to remind you is to cleanse your face every night to remove all products used during the day, sweat and other debris. I recommend double cleansing when using sunscreens to ensure that no chemical or physical compounds are still on your face. You can read a full article dedicated to cleansing in the second episode from our Skinimalism mini-series.

I hope that you understand now, how important it is to use sunscreen daily. Make it a habit, a vital part of your skincare regime, and you will have healthy-looking skin. Follow #DHSkinimalism for our product recommendations that would suit a minimalist skincare routine.


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