How to Choose the Right Sunscreen For Your Skin

Are the technical terms on the label confusing you? Two beauty experts break down everything you need to know before buying sun protection. 


To get your healthy dose of Vitamin D, we suggest you soak in some midday glare—but NOT without wearing sunblock. It would be safe to assume that we're all aware of the skincare fact: sun exposure = fine lines, pigmentation, dryness, melanoma, and a whole lot else. And, unless you wish to be cooped up at home at all times of the day, the only way to shield your skin from ultraviolet rays is to slather on a generous layer of sunscreen.

However, while we recommend that you religiously follow this skincare practice, we do understand that finding the ideal sunscreen for your skin type can be a bit of a hassle. UVA, UVB, PA+ aren't terms that we expect a layman to wrap their head around, thereby, we got two beauty experts to share their two bits on the things one should bear in mind when purchasing sun protection.

"When you’re outdoors—and sometimes indoors as well—your skin gets exposed to a multitude of external aggressors, such as pollution and UVA and UVB rays. The ultraviolet rays from sunlight can be extremely damaging, making it absolutely crucial to apply sunscreen all year round. Sunscreen protects your skin and minimises the damage caused by these harmful rays, fighting signs of premature ageing and free radical damage," explains Zoya Ali, National Training Head, Innisfree India. 

To give you some insight, Dr Ipsita Chatterjee, Lotus Herbals, helps decode some important terms that you'd often spot on sun protection labels:


1. UV: Ultraviolet is the higher-energy version of light further divided into A and B categories.

2. UVA: These are the rays that penetrate the skin's deepest layers and have the potential to cause the most damage, leading to signs of premature ageing.

3. UVB: These rays act on the surface of the skin, often causing sunburn, skin tan, and skin rashes.

4. Broad Spectrum: A broad-spectrum product offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

5. SPF: Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures how long your sunscreen will protect your skin against UVB rays.

6. PA: It is the level of protection against UVA rays.

7. PA+, PA++, and PA+++ indicate greater protection against UVA rays. 


Types of Sunscreen


Zoya Ali helps us distinguish between two primary types of sunscreen:


1. Mineral Sunscreen: Mineral sunscreens—also known as physical sunscreens—act as a physical barrier that reflects/scatters the ultraviolet rays from the sun. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the key active ingredients in mineral sunscreens and are gentle on all skin types. 

2. Chemical Sunscreen: Chemical sunscreens—also known as organic or synthetic sunscreens—absorbs the UV rays, converts them into heat, and releases them from the body. Since ingredients such as avobenzone and octisalate may irritate the skin, look for ingredients such as sunflower oil, rice bran oil, and wheat germ oil, which are rich in Vitamin E and antioxidants that prevent free radical damage.


How Much to Apply and How Often?


"Applying sunscreen once in the morning isn't enough, especially if you're planning to step out in the sun. Make sure that you reapply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or more every two hours. If you're venturing outdoors, apply it 15 minutes prior, as it may take a while to settle down and get absorbed into your skin. On the other hand, a water-resistant sunscreen will protect your skin for about 40-80 minutes in water, depending on the composition. When indoors, you must apply sunblock as well, and here's why—while your window may filter out the UVB Rays, UVA rays can still penetrate through, causing significant skin damage," informs Dr Chatterjee. 


Sunscreen For Oily Skin


According to Dr Chatterjee, if your skin type is oily, you should use a sunscreen that gives a non-greasy, matte finish or has a gel-based matte formulation.


Sunscreen For Dry Skin


"If you possess a dry skin type, opt for a hydration-packed sunblock that not only shields your skin from ultraviolet rays but also maximises moisturisation," she adds. 


Sunscreen For Normal Skin


Dr Chatterjee puts forth, "If your skin doesn't flake or your pores don't get clogged with oil, you can pick a sunscreen that is lightweight, non-greasy, and delivers optimal sun protection."


How to Apply Sunscreen


"About 1/3 to 1/2 a teaspoon of sunscreen should be applied on your entire face and neck to ensure full coverage. You must also cover all exposed areas such as your legs, ears, arms, and hands. Reapplication of sunblock after 2-3 hours is paramount since SPF protection often fades over time, even if you haven’t sweat a single drop. Make sure that you don’t mix your sunscreen with makeup or creams such as BB or CC cream. Layer your sunscreen separately to ensure full protection against harmful UV rays. Double cleanse your skin with cleansing oil and a cleansing foam at the end of the day to ensure that you get rid of all the SPF particles," suggests Zoya Ali. 


After considering all the above-mentioned information, purchase a sunscreen that best suits your skin type. Sunscreens are an indispensable part of our skincare routine, so don't forget to apply—and reapply one—every single day.