By now you already know that most dermatologists recommend that you use sunscreen daily, even if it’s raining or in the winter. This is especially important if you live in hot climates and are subjected to high amounts of sun exposure. However, it may be hard for you to understand what your skin needs and what may be the best suitor for your skin. It’s very hard to know how to choose sunscreen. Therefore, we have gathered the most common questions regarding sunscreens and have answered them all in just one place, giving you a huge sunscreen FAQ sheet you can read any time you have any doubts.
On this post:
- What is sunscreen and how does it work?
- Mineral vs organic sunscreens, what is the difference?
- What is the safest sunscreen option?
- Do I need a specific sunscreen for the face?
- How to choose sunscreen?
- What kind of texture should I look for in sunscreen?
- What should I avoid in sunscreens?
- How much sunscreen should I use and when to reapply?
- Can I replace my moisturizer with sunscreen?
- I have ____, what should I choose?
What is sunscreen and how does it work?
Sunscreens are cosmetic products that help to protect your skin against the harm of sun radiation. This ensures that they are not only perfect for protecting the skin from burning and help to prevent cancer, but they are also the best anti-aging product.
Sun radiation can induce many changes in your skin. Firstly, it can burn your skin – that is the most evident one. However, there are a few effects that will only be seen in the long run. We also have melanoma and other skin cancers that are induced by sun radiation altering cells. Additionally, it will also disrupt the proteins that are in the base of the structure of the dermis, the medium layer of the skin. This means that by losing collagen and elastin fibers, the skin gains more wrinkles and loses firmness.
Sunscreens work by deflecting and/or absorbing radiation and turning it into heat. This means that a considerable part of the radiation will not hit your cells, reducing the effects it would cause – burns, premature aging, and skin cancer.
What is the difference between mineral and organic sunscreens?
First of all, let’s talk about the names each type of sunscreen has. Mineral sunscreens are also called inorganic or physical sunscreens. On the other hand, organic sunscreens are also called chemical sunscreens, which is factually incorrect because every kind of cosmetic is a chemical (as it relates to chemistry as a science). Mineral sunscreens are those that only contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as sunscreen ingredients. Organic sunscreens are all the remaining sunscreen ingredients, as all of them contain carbon (the difference between organic and inorganic molecules is exactly this, organic means it contains carbon in the structure). Even though previously we thought that mineral sunscreens deflected radiation and organic sunscreens absorbed them, it is not exactly true. New findings have discovered that mineral sunscreens also absorb radiation and turn it into heat. So this means that both mineral sunscreens and organic ones will both deflect and absorb radiation.
That being said, mineral sunscreens still deflect a lot more than organic ones, inducing what is known as white cast. This is an issue with sunscreens that is particularly problematic on dark skin, as it’s way more noticeable. Essentially, given that mineral sunscreens are made of white compounds that deflect a lot of light, you end up getting a whitish/grayish cast on your skin. This can be avoided in mineral sunscreens by using the micro or nano versions of mineral sunscreen ingredients, however, it’s very difficult to find ones that actually work.
What is the safest sunscreen option?
The safest option is to use sunscreen. Don’t let scaremongers mislead you into thinking only mineral filters are safe. One common misinformation is that mineral sunscreens are better because they are natural. Firstly, natural doesn’t mean safer, as your body is unable to tell if something is natural or not. The body only cares about molecules, and those don’t come with “Made in” information. Additionally, nature itself makes some of the most potent toxins, so keep in mind that natural doesn’t mean safer. Secondly, mineral sunscreens aren’t natural. They do start by taking a natural ingredient, but then the industry highly processes it to remove any contaminants that would harm the skin. So, in fact, there aren’t any natural sunscreens.
Even though in the 90s some organic sunscreens used to cause skin intolerance, those aren’t used anymore in Europe. The organic filters we now have are much better. Not only they’re milder on sensitive skins, but they also protect from a broad radiation spectrum. Of course, there will be some people who will not tolerate anything but mineral sunscreens, but the percentage is extremely low.
Do I need a specific sunscreen for the face?
The short answer is that you probably do.
Body sunscreen can be used on the face, however, there are some issues we need to address. The first is that the texture will probably not be great for the face. This is true especially if you suffer from oily or combination skin, as no body sunscreen will be mattifying. Additionally, there is the issue with the eye contour, as most body sunscreens will cause you intense burning if they get into the eyes. Unfortunately, this can happen by just sweating and the sweat with sunscreen going into your eyes. Lastly, they are not made to be used together with other products, so you can experience more pilling when trying to apply with your regular skincare routine or make-up. However, if you’ve found a body sunscreen that you love to use on your face, that is totally ok.
How to choose sunscreen?
There are some key points that you should consider when purchasing a face sunscreen. We’ve listed them by top priority to low priority, so you can keep in mind what is most important.
SPF tells you how much more your skin will be able to endure sun exposure without burning. So, if your skin can withstand 10 minutes in the sun before experiencing burning, an SPF10 will increase it by tenfold, making it 100 minutes (or 1h40min). Ideally, dermatologists recommend that you choose a face sunscreen with at least SPF15. Although there are some misconceptions about this, SPF50 is totally safe. In Europe, brands are not allowed to state more than SPF50, so anything above that will have SPF50+ on the label. So, which SPF is the best one? It depends on your exposure. Ideally, if you’re enduring intense sun exposure, you should choose SPF50 or SPF50+. However, if you’re just wearing sunscreen to go from home to work and vice versa, without intense sun exposure, an SPF30 will do just fine.
According to EU legislation, all sunscreens sold in Europe (and therefore all we carry on our website) need to have at least 1/3 of the UVA protection that they have of UVB protection. This means that all SPF30 sunscreens will have at least 10 regarding UVA protection. However, this is the minimum value, and there are actually examples of SPF30 that also have UVA protection 30. There is no standard for referring to UVA protection, however, there are two more common. Firstly, the PPD system (equivalent to SPF) and then the PA system (+ to ++++).
You should always consider your skin type. This is extremely important when considering oily or combination skin. These need mattifying or at least lighter formulas. When talking about brands that have a large sunscreen range, you will find solutions for specific skin types.
Nowadays, sunscreens are not merely sunscreens. They can also have added benefits. Some examples are eye-compatible technology, anti-dark spots action, acne-fighting ingredients, and antioxidant cocktails.
Tinted or Non-Tinted
Some formulas have tinted options, so if you’re looking for a bit of color correction, this option might help you combine two products in one. However, keep in mind that tinted sunscreens might make you use less of them due to wanting to have light coverage. Always keep in mind that the amount of product should always be around 1 teaspoon for the face, neck, and head. In spite of this recommendation, what you should always keep in mind is that you should properly cover the entirety of your skin, and that varies with several factors such as if you have a beard and how large your face is.
What kind of texture should I look for in sunscreen?
We usually recommend that you go for a cream or an emulsion/lotion/gel cream. Usually, people with oily skin tend to prefer lighter versions, such as oil-free emulsions or gels. If you have dry skin, you will probably prefer heavier formulas such as creams, that nourish your skin for longer. You can even check out our selection of sunscreens for oily skin in order to find a great one if you suffer from oily skin.
Even though powder sunscreens might look appealing, you will never get the full protection unless you cover yourself in the powder until you resemble Marie Antoinette. Additionally, spray sunscreens are great but save them for reapplying your sunscreen throughout the day.
What should I avoid in sunscreens?
How to choose sunscreen usually meets the difficulty of what to avoid. Except in cases where you have known allergies, there are no ingredients that you should ban. If you have particularly sensitive skin, we advise you to look for fragrance-free options, but those with fragrance can still be compatible with skin sensitivity. Regarding sunscreen filters, the ones used in the EU are the latest-generation ones and as far as science knows, are safe. All ingredients that are known to cause harm to humans are removed from formulas, so you don’t need to be browsing all INCI lists searching for a “safe” formula. All of the ones we carry on our website are compatible with the current legislation, which takes into account scientific evidence.
Just keep in mind that if you know you don’t get along with a certain ingredient, maybe try to avoid it. However, if it’s not an allergy, but a certain degree of intolerance, the formula can prevent that from happening. Keep in mind to avoid anything you’re allergic to, but know that other ingredients might disrupt your skin within one certain formula, but might be just fine in another one. Formula is queen.
How much sunscreen should I use and when to reapply?
If we’re going all sciencey here, you should use 2mg/cm². This is how sunscreens are tested and it’s the only way you’re achieving the SPF stated on the bottle. However, what does this actually mean regarding the amount you should use? It will always depend on the exposed area of your face, ears, neck and bust. But considering a medium-sized face, neck and bust, it should be around half a teaspoon. Again, if you know that you have a large face, or your forehead stretches longer, or you use short hair, keep in mind to cover everything in sunscreen. Never, ever, forget the ears.
Regarding reapplying, here’s when you should reapply:
- after swimming or heavily sweating;
- right after towel-drying the skin;
- after 2h of intense sun exposure;
- after half a day of light sun exposure.
Can I replace my moisturizer with sunscreen?
It depends on your skin, but if you choose your sunscreen wisely and according to your needs, you most certainly can.
I have ____, what should I choose?
I have melasma
Always choose the highest protection available and try to keep out of the sun. Even though previously people tented to recommend mineral sunscreens, it is no longer the case. Given that scientists discovered that mineral sunscreens also absorb radiation and convert it into heat, it no longer matters. What matters, is to achieve the broadest protection possible, and you can do that by using more filters. We suggest you browse our selection of sunscreen for dark spots if you’re having trouble finding a good one.
Just don’t choose one that states it’s to depigment the skin. Other than that, you’re free to use whatever you like best. Again, the important part here is to wear something that you’re comfortable with. Given that pregnancy tends to increase the risk for dark spots, prevention is key.
I have rosacea
Choose one that is fragrance and alcohol-free, as these tend to induce rosacea flares in people with this condition.
I have a baby, which one should I choose for him/her?
Up until three years old, dermatologists recommend that you choose mineral ones. You can actually browse our selection of sunscreens for babies in order to find the best one for you.
How to choose sunscreen is not always easy. However, we believe these tips will help empower you. If you wish, check out our great selection of face sunscreens in our store.