A sunscreen issue recently took the beauty community by storm after Gwyneth Paltrow showed Vogue her daily skincare routine. One notable portion of the video shows the actress applying sunscreen only on her nose and cheekbone areas.
A representative has since clarified to Insider that the award-winning actress’s full application process was just cut from the video, but not before the internet—from dermatologists to beauty gurus and enthusiasts—chimed in. They clarified that sunscreen should be applied to the whole face and other exposed parts of the skin.
But what exactly is the deal about sunscreen, and why is it such an important part of daily skin care?
The Harms of UV Radiation
Ultraviolet rays are naturally emitted by the sun. There are also artificial sources of UV rays, which include tanning beds, incandescent and fluorescent lights, and lasers. While UV rays are a source of vitamin D, they also pose several risks.
Two kinds of UV light, UVA and UVB, are known to contribute to skin cancer. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and penetrate more deeply into the skin. They play a significant role in skin aging and premature aging.
On the other hand, UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and are associated with more immediate effects, namely sunburn. They are also linked with most skin cancers. While many of their harmful effects have to do with the skin, UV rays can also cause damage to the eyes.
What to Look for in a Sunscreen
With the many harmful effects that UV radiation causes, some ways to protect ourselves are to use hats, eye protection, clothing that provides ample coverage, and UV-blocking window films. Another critical step in protection is to wear sunscreen. Because there are many sunscreens on the market today, you should know the essential features of a good sunscreen.
- High SPF
Dermatologists recommend using sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher. Sunscreen with SPF 30 is enough to block 97% of UVB rays. A higher SPF may block a bit more of the sun’s UVB rays, but keep in mind that no sunscreen is capable of blocking 100% of UV rays.
Sunscreens with higher SPF do not have effects that last longer than sunscreens with SPF 30. They need to be reapplied as frequently as any other sunscreen, which is usually around two hours, especially if you are going to be swimming or exercising.
- Broad Spectrum
SPF levels tell you how well you will be protected from UVB rays, but UVA rays also harm the skin. This is when using a broad-spectrum sunscreen comes in handy. “Broad spectrum” simply means that the suncreen provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
It is important to use broad-spectrum protection because while SPF prevents sunburns, you also need protection against skin aging. Remember to look for these the next time you buy sunscreen.
- Water Resistance
Even if you are not going to the beach or swimming in the pool, a water-resistant sunscreen is immensely helpful. You may be sweating throughout the day, too, so water-resistant properties make sure your sunscreen sticks.
Your sunscreen can be wiped off due to friction from wiping on your towels and even your clothing. Water resistance gives you the assurance that your activities don’t work against your sun protection.
What to Avoid in a Sunscreen
As there are many features to look for in a sunscreen, there are also ingredients to avoid. These are some harmful ingredients in your sunscreen.
- Oxybenzone and Octinoxate
Hawaii banned sunscreen with oxybenzone, and for good reason. Oxybenzone causes harm not just to humans but also to coral reefs. This means that every time you have a swim at the beach wearing sunscreen with oxybenzone, it contributes to coral bleaching and damage to marine life.
While not yet conclusive, the two compounds may also have detrimental hormonal effects, which means that they could get in the way of development and reproductive functions. Evidence has been found in its effect on animals, but this does not automatically translate to an effect on humans.
Avobenzone is a chemical that blocks UVA rays in sunscreens, but it has harmful effects on the skin. The ingredient begins breaking down upon sun exposure, creating free radicals that are harmful to the skin. Free radicals cause damage to cells, such as accelerating the aging process.
The Real Deal
The real deal about sunscreen is that it is a vital form of protection against UV radiation. Choose your sunscreen wisely, use it daily, and reapply it regularly.