As someone who cares about your skin, you’d probably already know the importance of sun protection. It is deemed as a non-negotiable in skincare: choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, wear SPF daily, and reapply diligently. But some of us may still get things wrong when sifting through the misconceptions about sunscreen that can leave you exposed to premature ageing, sun damage and even an increased risk of skin cancer.
Sunscreen is your first line of defence against the sun’s harmful rays. In order to continue protecting your skin effectively, it’s important to differentiate between the myths and facts of SPF so you can be out under the sun with a greater peace of mind.
Myth #1: There’s no need to apply sunscreen if you’re indoors
While most of the population continue to work from home during Singapore’s Phase 2 of Safe Re-opening, you should still apply sunscreen especially if you’re going to be sitting right by the window. Ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) are two types of ultraviolet light that will damage your skin from unprotected sun exposure. The glass window may block some rays, but not all of them. Another common misconception is that sunscreen isn’t necessary if the weather is cloudy. Whether it’s a cool or overcast day, sun damage is caused by UV radiation, rather than temperature. UV radiation can still penetrate through some clouds to be absorbed by your skin – clouds filter less than 25% of the UV rays that can penetrate the skin and lead to skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Myth #2: A high SPF sunscreen will last all day
Sun Protection Factor, more commonly known as SPF, measures the sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. The numbers you see, such as SPF 30 or SPF 50, refers to how well the sunscreen protects the skin against sunburn. It is commonly misunderstood to indicate how long you can stay in the sun, but instead, how much longer it takes the skin to redden with applied sunscreen (exactly as directed) versus how long it takes to redden without it.
Moreover, it is important to note that a typical sunscreen only provides protection against UVB rays. Hence, opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that will protect your skin effectively from both UVA and UVB rays. For those who want a little extra protection, sunscreens with SPF 50 offer a good option for people who are more sensitive to the sun or have a higher risk for skin cancer. But regardless of the SPF level you choose, you should reapply your sunscreen every two hours. After that period, the effectiveness of the protection will decrease dramatically and leave your skin vulnerable to over exposure.
Myth #3: Sunscreen will result in Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for all of us – it supports a healthy immune system, spurs bone growth and improves resistance against certain diseases. The sun’s radiation is one source of vitamin D, however unprotected sun exposure remains an unwise choice to obtain this vitamin. When applied in a thick layer, sunscreen can block sun rays effectively and cause a lack of vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
With that said, it is best to acquire vitamin D through your food and supplements. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, cheese and egg yolks are all good sources. There are also fortified foods with this nutrient, such as orange juice and soy milk, that can help to boost your vitamin D intake.
Myth #4: All sunscreens are the same
In any sunscreen, the ingredients differ which places the sunscreen into two categories: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens contain ingredients such as zinc dioxide and titanium dioxide, and chemical sunscreens are formulated with ingredients like avobenzone and oxybenzone. They work in varied manners: chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and reduce their penetration into the skin, while physical sunscreens deflect UV rays. Choosing either one to use on your skin depends on your skin type and personal preference.
Understanding the truth about these misconceptions can help people use their sunscreen effectively. Instructions for each sunscreen may vary, so ensure you follow the directions as stated on the packaging for maximum protection against skin damage and sunburn.
Sunscreen also helps to prevent sunspots, signs of premature ageing and any existing pigmentation on face from getting darker. Age spots, for instance, are black or brown spots that commonly appear on your face and hands after extended sun exposure. There are a few treatments available to lighten those pigmented spots for a much clearer skin.
Chemical peels with 20% to 50% salicylic acid concentrations will be applied to your skin to remove several layers of sun damaged cells. The number of sessions required will be advised during the consultation with your doctor and the downtime will depend on the intensity of the treatment.
For laser treatments, the non-invasive Q-switch creates high-intensity pulsed beam light that operates in billionths of a second to break down the pigmentation into smaller pieces. This will then be cleared by the body’s lymphatic system naturally. The emitted energy is concentrated into very powerful pulses and can be targeted at a specific area of concern. As such, it can be helpful in avoiding damage to surrounding tissues and causing unwanted side effects. Plus, it also gently stimulates the skin’s own collagen production to maintain skin elasticity and firmness. Because it targets hyperpigmentation, it also helps in acne scar removal. Results can be seen within 3 to 4 weeks and there is almost no downtime required.