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How to buy the best sunscreen for your skin

Skin Care
 Choosing the right sunscreen can be a daunting task (Photo: Courtesy)

Sunscreen is one of the most important products in your skin care routine. Yet many black women still fail to incorporate SPF into their beauty routine. One of the reasons some women skip sunscreen is that they don’t know how to find the right product.

Choosing the right sunscreen can be a daunting task. For starters, should you go for a chemical or mineral sunscreen? How do you select the appropriate SPF for your needs? How do you verify that the lotion's quality is commensurate with its pricing?

Fortunately, reading sunscreen labels can help you to find the right product for you. Here’s your guide for shopping for the perfect sunscreen lotion for your needs:

Check the SPF

The higher the SPF, the better. Right? Wrong! Higher SPF in your sunscreen doesn’t necessarily translate into better sun protection. Dermatologist recommend SPF 30+ sunscreen formulations. That is enough SPF to provide optimum protection from harmful sun rays.

You don’t need anything above SPF 50. In fact, some experts say that using super-high-SPF sunscreens could lead to more UV exposure, which ups your risk for both burns and skin cancer.

You’ll notice that high SPF formulations tend to be thicker and leave you with a chalky appearance. Most people compensate for this chalkiness by not using the right amount of sunscreen with each application.

Go for broad spectrum

To provide your skin with optimum protection, you need to guard it from two types of sun rays. UVB rays damage your skin’s upper surface and are the main cause of sunburn.

On the other hand, UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are the primary cause of skin aging, wrinkles, discoloration, and sagging. Both types of rays are responsible for causing skin cancer.

To protect your skin, look for labels that say "wide” or “broad” spectrum protection which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Is there one or more + signs next to your SPF grade?

That’s a PA+ rating, a system used in Asian countries to indicate a product’s UVA protection factor. The more plus signs, the better the protection against UVA.

 Should you go for chemical or mineral sunscreen? (Photo: Courtesy)
Chemical vs mineral sunscreen

Both chemical and mineral sunscreens are effective, though in different ways. Chemical sunscreens, simply put, rely on ingredients that stimulate chemical reactions in the skin to absorb UV radiation and release them.

On the other hand, mineral sunscreens rely on inorganic substances that sit on top of the skin to deflect and scatter light. The term 'mineral' usually refers to the use of either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide or both, as sunscreen filters.

Most sunscreens on the market are chemical-based. However, more and more brands are have added mineral sunscreen formulations in their product offering, especially as harmful ingredients such as   oxybenzone and octinoxate become more restricted.

Mineral sunscreens tend to be gentler on skin.  Chemical sunscreens are more irritating than mineral or natural sunscreens. If you have sensitive skin, go for formulas that incorporate physical.

When to go for water-resistant sunscreen

Water resistant (or sweat-resistant) sunscreen comes in handy for swimming and sweaty activities. Usually, a water-resistant formula can provide protection for about 40 to 80 minutes when you’re swimming or sweating.

However, no formula is truly water-proof. That’s why the FDA doesn’t allow brands to use labels such as “water-proof” or “sweat-proof” on their sunscreen products. Therefore, while a water-resistant sunscreen may be a better choice for swimming, you still need to reapply sunscreen on a frequently.

Face vs body sunscreen

Does it matter if you use a regular body sunscreen on your face? Well, while you can use body sunscreen on your face, it isn’t ideal.

Facial sunscreens are made differently to avoid clogging pores and causing acne breakouts. Because zinc oxide is what gives us the pasty look that everyone seeks to avoid, they also usually have less of it. That’s why many facial sunscreens contain a combination of zinc oxide and a chemical blocker.

Another advantage of facial sunscreen formulations is that they are easy to apply. They're specially designed to go with makeup and other skincare products. On the other hand, body sunscreens tend to be thicker and are typically better for sections of the body where sweating is an issue.

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