Sunscreen is a very important part of your skin care for anti-aging because continuous exposure to the sun over the years is the primary cause of wrinkles on our skin.

If you don’t believe, take a look at your buttock. Do you find that the skin there is whiter, very smooth and hardly any wrinkles? The skin there is hardly exposed to the sun all your life, unless you purposely do so.

What is sun radiation?

The sun emits 3 types of radiations: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC ray is deadly but it is blocked by the earth’s ozone layer, hence, we are not exposed to it much, unless there is a hole in the sky.

UVB ray cause burning on the skin and damage the skin’s genetic structure. This is the one that gives a tan and over dose of it, sunburn. However, it does not penetrate through glass. So, you are not likely to get a tan or sunburn sitting by the window.

UVA is not as strong as UVB, but it penetrate through glass and into deeper layer of the skin to cause damage to the collagen leading to loss of elasticity and premature wrinkles.

Even on a cloudy day, UVA and UVB rays are ever-present. Sitting in the shade or wearing a hat protects you only a small portion. Other surrounding surfaces such as water, snow, and cement reflect the rays up from the ground to your skin.

Altitude is a sun enhancer. For every 1000 ft increase in altitude, the sun’s potency increases by 4%. That is why it is important to use sunscreen when you ski in the snowy mountains.

Unless you become a hermit, it is impossible to avoid exposure to the sun. Therefore, it is necessary to use sunscreen in the day at all times.

What is a sunscreen?

You should use sunscreen on the exposed skin of your body in the day. There is no need for it in the night. Sunscreen is a cream or lotion that is formulated with UV absorbing ingredients to give the protection.

When you shop for sunscreen, take note of the word SPF on the packaging. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It is a measurement for UVB protection. The number lets you know how long you can stay in the sun while wearing the sunscreen, before you start to turn red.

For example, you typically take 15 mins to start to turn red (or get a tan). SPF 15 allows you to stay in the sun 15 times longer. That means 3 hrs 45 mins (15 x 15 mins – 3.75hr). This is assumed that you have evenly spread the sunscreen on your body.

SPF does not give indication of UVA protection. Instead look out for the number of “+” next to the SPF such as SPF 30+ or SPF 50++. Another form of labeling is PA + , PA ++ or PA +++ on the packaging. This is the measurement for UVA protection. The more “+”  the better the UVA protection.

Also, turn over the packaging and look at the ingredient list. Look out for the following chemicals that are UVA absorbing ingredients. When they are listed, it means that the cream or lotion has UVA protection:

  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide
  • Avobenzone or Parsol 1789™ ( butyl methoxydibenzyl methane)
  • Mexoryl SX™ (Terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid)
  • Tinosorb M™ (Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane)
  • Tinosorb S™ (Methylene Bis-Benzotriazoyl Tetramethylbutylphenol)

Even if you are working indoor most of the time, you can still get UVA exposure. So, get a moisturizer as well as the make up foundation that has sunscreen in it . Don’t forget to apply on the eye area too as most eye creams are not formulated for sun protection.

You are exposed to the sun over a lifetime. So, the sooner you start applying sunscreen, particularly UVA protection, the longer you can delay wrinkle formation.

I only wish I knew this in my 20s. But, better late than never!

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