How to Choose the Right Sunscreen?

Ella Mar 05, 2024
37 People Read
sunscreen spf

So you have finally decided to start using sunscreen... Congratulations, you are on the right path!🌞 You were probably inspired by my previous article!

However, there are a few choices you still need to make, like:

- Should I go for chemical sunscreens or mineral sunscreens?

- Should I use spray type or cream type sunscreen?

- When to use waterproof sunscreen?

- What about reef and environment-friendly sunscreen options?

Continue reading to learn about different sunscreen options and how to make the right choice!

sunscreen spf

What are the different forms of sunscreen?

In the world of skincare, sunscreen stands as a paramount defense against the sun's potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The amount of sunscreen options available can be overwhelming, possibly making you confused to begin with. The most important thing is that you are using sun protection to begin with, however, now it is time to take things to the next level and up your sunscreen game by using the SPF products that  best suit your needs.

Cream Sunscreen

Cream sunscreens are the classic choice for many, providing rich hydration along with sun protection. These formulations are typically thicker in texture, making them suitable for dry or dehydrated skin types. Cream sunscreens are also great for use on the face and other sensitive areas, as they offer moisturizing benefits along with UV protection.

Spray Sunscreen

Spray sunscreens offer quick and effortless application, making them ideal for those who are always on the move or have active lifestyles. With just a few spritzes, you can cover large areas of the body, ensuring even protection. However, it's essential to apply spray sunscreen generously and evenly to ensure adequate coverage, as it can be easy to miss spots or apply too thinly.

Serum Sunscreen

Serum sunscreens are a lightweight and innovative option for those who prefer a more refined texture. These formulations are often water-based and absorb quickly into the skin, leaving behind a weightless feel. Serum sunscreens are perfect for layering under makeup or other skincare products, making them an excellent choice for daily wear. Additionally, serums can offer additional skincare benefits, such as hydration or antioxidant protection, depending on the formulation.

Stick Sunscreen

Stick sunscreens are compact and portable, making them convenient for on-the-go touch-ups or targeted application to specific areas. These solid formulations are particularly useful for applying sunscreen to delicate areas like the nose, lips, and around the eyes. Stick sunscreens are also less likely to leak or spill, making them an excellent option for travel or outdoor activities.

sun shines ocean sunset

What is chemical sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens function by absorbing UV radiation and transforming it into heat energy, thereby preventing it from penetrating the skin's surface. Common active ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene, each with its unique mechanism of action. According to studies published in reputable scientific journals such as the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, chemical sunscreens have demonstrated efficiency in shielding the skin from both UVA and UVB radiation. However, concerns have been raised regarding potential skin sensitivity and hormone disruption associated with certain chemical filters, prompting consumers to seek alternatives.

What is mineral sunscreen?

In contrast to chemical sunscreens, physical or mineral sunscreens act as a physical barrier, deflecting UV rays away from the skin's surface. The active ingredients, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide, are naturally occurring minerals known for their broad-spectrum protection and minimal risk of skin irritation. Several studies cited by reputable organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation have affirmed the effectiveness of physical sunscreens in safeguarding against UV-induced skin damage.-Furthermore, these formulations are often considered as safe for sensitive skin and suitable for individuals with allergies or intolerances to chemical filters.

What are hybrid sunscreens?

Hybrid or combination sunscreens allow to maximize the benefits of chemical and physical filters, offering broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Hybrid sunscreens are a type of sunscreen that contain both types of sun filters (mineral and chemical). This type of sunscreen helps protect your skin by simultaneously reflecting and absorbing the sun's harmful rays.

This hybrid approach aims to optimize efficacy while mitigating potential drawbacks associated with individual filter types. Research conducted by dermatologists and skincare experts, as documented in peer-reviewed journals like Dermatologic Surgery and the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, supports the notion that combination sunscreens provide comprehensive sun protection without compromising cosmetic elegance. Additionally, the versatility of combination formulations, available in various textures and application methods, caters to diverse consumer preferences and skin types.

Is water-resistant sunscreen better?

For individuals engaged in outdoor activities or water sports, water-resistant sunscreen can serve as a perfect ally in sun protection. These formulations undergo rigorous testing to assess their ability to maintain efficacy when exposed to water or sweat. The American Academy of Dermatology and the Environmental Working Group recommend water-resistant sunscreens for prolonged sun exposure, emphasizing the importance of reapplication after swimming or perspiring. Scientific studies published in esteemed journals such as the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology underscore the effectiveness of water-resistant sunscreens in providing durable protection against UV radiation during water-based activities.

woman swimming

What are reef-safe sunscreens?

With growing environmental concerns, particularly regarding the impact of sunscreen chemicals on coral reefs, the demand for reef-safe sunscreens has surged. These formulations exclude oxybenzone and octinoxate - chemicals implicated in coral bleaching and reef degradation. Organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advocate for the use of reef-safe sunscreens to mitigate ecological harm. Scientific research, including studies published in Coral Reefs and Marine Pollution Bulletin, corroborates the detrimental effects of chemical sunscreens on coral ecosystems, underscoring the urgency of adopting reef-safe alternatives.

coral reef colorful

So what kind of sunscreen should I use?

Ultimately, the best sunscreen for you will depend on your personal preferences, skin type, and lifestyle. Whether you opt for the ease of a spray, the nourishment of a cream, the lightness of a serum, or the precision of a stick, incorporating sunscreen into your daily routine is essential for maintaining healthy and protected skin.

The main things to consider before choosing the right sunscreen for you are:

- Skin type: if you have sensitive skin it might be best to opt for mineral sunscreen as they tend to be less irritating. If you have dry skin, however, chemical sunscreens tend to be more moisturizing, so this might be the best fit for you. Many sunscreens tent to have different formulations for different skin types, for instance, if you have dry skin, you might want to goo for sunscreens that have additional moisturizing ingredients, such as, hyaluronic acid. There are also sunscreens formulated for oily skin, aging skin, etc. You should definitely consider this and read the ingredients list before choosing the right sunscreen product for you!

- Planned activities: if you are planning on swimming or being physically active and sweating, then a waterproof sunscreen is a  must! Also - remember that while the sunscreen is labelled as "waterproof", you cannot fully rely on it being 100% resistant even after a 20 minute swim or other activities in the water, so be cautious and reapply the sunscreen after getting wet to ensure maximum protection!

- Make up: if you plan on using make up, such as foundation or powder, you might want to consider using a tinted sunscreen ( they come both as mineral and chemical sunscreens), or a mineral SFP powder and blush! That is a great way to achieve maximum results by keeping your make up routine more simple!

However, you should always check the SPF rating of the make up products, as sometimes companies tend to mark their make up as "sun protective", when all it offers is SPF10 or less and it is not ever broad spectrum (meaning it only protects you from UVB not UVA rays!) 

- Body parts: usually sunscreen is marked as "for face", or "for face and body", etc. You should definitely pay attention to this as you don't want to apply a product that is super greasy to your face, however, it might still work for your legs, etc. Also, certain forms oof sunscreen are more suited for face than others, for instance, stick or serum as they allow for a more precise application on smaller areas.

In conclusion, understanding the different types of sunscreens allows you to take proactive steps in preserving your skin's youthful glow by using the right kind of protection for each occasion and your specific needs. To age gracefully, it's crucial to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB radiation through measures like sunscreen, however, protective clothing, and avoiding direct sunlight during sun's peak hours is also a vital of proper skin protection strategy.

You might enjoy these articles:

UV Exposure from Artificial Sources: How It Affects Your Skin and Health

Beyond the Windows: UV Radiation and Skin Protection Indoors

UV Radiation and Aging: Explained For Beginners