The Magic Called Sunscreen.

I have a personal experience with this one and I’ll share it with you one day.

Sunscreen (sunblock, suntan lotion) just as the name implies- /sun/ + /screen/- creates a screen between your skin and the sun. Sunscreen is anything from a lotion to a spray, gel and any other topical product that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s UV radiation and by that, helps protect against sunburn. It has also been found to help slow the development of wrinkles, dark spots and sagging skin. If used intentionally, it can prevent them altogether and help to maintain an even skin tone. Sunscreen is important for many a reason, most important of which is shielding the skin from UV rays which are increasingly present in the environment, thanks to the non-stop depletion of the ozone layer. In addition, daily application of SS potentially splits the risk of developing skin cancer (the most common form of cancer in the US) in half. Sunscreen also prevents skin-aging. UV rays cause the skin to age by creating different effects on the skin: skin discoloration can occur, a breakdown of collagen that brings about lines, sagging and wrinkles can also occur as well as photoaging of skin (a process that results in a leather-like-looking skin).

There are two types of sunscreen: Mineral sunscreen and Chemical sunscreen. The difference is based on the difference in the mechanism of action which in this case would be referring to the mechanism used to filter the UV rays. Those that form a block between the skin and the UV (UVA and UVB) rays tend to do this by bouncing off the rays and reflecting them away from the skin onto other surfaces. Whereas, the other group absorbs the rays and converts them to heat. Sunscreen types also depend on: the part of the body it is being applied to, skin type (oily, dry, acne-prone skin, e.t.c.) and skin colour (black, brown or white). There’s really a variety to choose from. Babies can even wear sunscreen, as long as they are older than six months old (younger babies would require other practices of sun-blocking such as staying under a shade, when out in the sun). According to research, redheads need more sunscreen because thanks to gene mutation associated with the DNA for redhead and freckles, they have a higher chance of developing skin cancer.

Are there DIY recipes for sunscreen?

There are DIY sunscreen recipes for different needs especially if you are considering cost and convenience. But first, let me explain the following key terms:

  1. SPF: SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and it is expressed in numbers. SPF is an estimate of how well a product protects your skin from UV rays. This is why certified dermatologists don’t recommend an SPF of < 30.
  2. Broad Spectrum: A broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are infamously linked to skin damage and the acceleration of the formation of wrinkles while UVB rays are more closely linked to causing skin cancer.
  3. Sunblock: This term is used to describe those products that stand between your skin and the rays of the sun. They stay on top of the skin as opposed to getting absorbed. Many sun-protection products contain a blend of both sunscreen and sunblock ingredients.
  4. Natural Sunscreen: These are those types without any chemical sun-protection filter; instead, they are made up of active ingredients gotten from plants to form protective covers on the skin and bounce the UV rays away from the layers of the dermis. These plant components can include minerals such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. They are also called physical sunscreens.
  5. Chemical Sun-Protection Filters: These include synthesized products which are sold over the counter while being regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that they are seriously observed for efficiency and safety before they are sold to consumers. They are strictly monitored, as some of them were reported in the past to have catalyzed skin damage and increased the risk of developing skin cancer.

About this SPF, what is better than what?

A higher SPF allows you to stay for longer hours outdoors than a lower SPF. So, even though no SS is perfect, an SPF of 100 will do a better job protecting your skin from any damage, than an SPF of 50.

Sunscreen and make-up…

Biggest rule here is that sunscreen goes directly on your skin before anything else follows. The only time your sunscreen goes over your make-up is when you are reapplying it (the sunscreen). Also, physical sunscreens work best with make-up, since they can work over the make-up to deflect the sun rays.

That white cast I get after applying my sunscreen, what’s it about?

Every sunscreen user has had one or two moments with the white cast. This white cast is from the action of the physical sunscreens that create a barrier between your skin and the rays rather than get absorbed into the skin like chemical sunscreens. To rid yourself of this problem, get an organic sunscreen that uses nano-tech to break down the particles. (I wonder if this doesn’t defeat the entire purpose).

Will a sunscreen fit into my budget?

Yes, it will. Even though some products and brands cost more than others, there’s always something that fits everyone’s budget. You can start with an SPF 30.

Okay okay, we’ve heard the pros, when do you tell us the cons? Can I be allergic? What are the side effects, especially with long-term use?

First, I’d like to say that it’s literally the best thing- the magic called sunscreen. But, even though they don’t abound, there are a few things to consider, here and there. Dermatologists recommend the physical sunscreens for kids and babies because they are much less likely to cause allergic reactions. You should also avoid using spray sunscreens on your face, it isn’t safe to inhale them; although spray sunscreens can come in handy with children who tend to be restless during application. Just spray it everywhere else apart from their faces.

Different types have different cons, but generally, one of the most important downsides to consider is the cost of actively using sun-protection products. Sunscreen can be expensive, especially if you are working with strict recommendations. Also, sometimes, with prolonged use, sunscreen can make the skin become more sensitive. Again, it can be uncomfortable, especially when you have to reapply it in the middle of the day. Imagine if you have to do this reapplication on-top of your make-up as well…yikes! Additionally, some SS can clog skin pores. Yes. Take your bath and scrub adequately, dear. Throw in the fact that that 20-minute wait-time is a long time too. (Incase I didn’t mention this before, it takes your sunscreen 20 minutes to become activated after you apply it. This essentially means that if you plan to step out by 9:30am, you should have applied your sunscreen before 9:10am. So, you will do well to remember to factor this in as you prepare to go out of the house- especially if you are in a hurry but you live in Lagos which is infamous for its traffic jams). Of course, if you don’t have plans of leaving the house, the 20-minute condition won’t matter to you. Anyway, some sunscreens stain clothing too and if you do not apply enough sunscreen or reapply adequately and you linger in the sun, you’ll be in trouble.

Any alternatives? Organic variants?

Well, I don’t know about organic variants, but, sun-protective clothing including hats, caps, long-sleeve clothing and clothing made with UPF (Ultraviolet protection factor) can definitely step up to the challenge.

“What’s more, sun-protective clothing is the simplest way to stay safe; unlike sunscreen, you never need to reapply!”

Personally though, I prefer sunscreen because how about on days when I want to rock my halter neck tops?

Does sunscreen expire?

The FDA warns that a sunscreen has expired once the expiration date labelled on it by the manufacturers has come and gone- usually after the shelf-life of 3 years. This does not mean that exposure to direct sunlight and/or extreme temperatures will not affect efficiency over time. Also, expired sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, especially if it is a physical sunscreen. This is because the active ingredients of a physical SS are photostable. Expired (unusable) sunscreen will smell off and feel off too- in terms of consistency. I hope!

How do I store my sunscreen?

Store in a cool, dry place. Cliché? Lol. Ensure also that the lid is tightly closed at all times.

Can I use the same sunscreen for both my face and body?

Indeed, your face is more sensitive than your body, so you will want to use a sunscreen that is light and non-greasy on it so that it doesn’t irritate your skin or clog your pores. Still, there really isn’t any difference between the SS for your face and that for your body.

How do I apply my sunscreen?

You apply your sunscreen like this

First off, sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours- if you are in the sun/having contact with the sun. Wear your sunscreen while at home too because UV rays will always find you as long as you’ve got windows. Apply evenly over your face, with your hands, avoiding contact with your eyes and mouth and massaging it properly by patting until it is absorbed into the skin (this usually takes 20 minutes). For it to be effective, you’d have to apply 1/2 teaspoon generously. Wear your SS judiciously to ensure full protection; wear it all year round as well.

So, what about a tan?

A tan is what you get when you spend a lot of time in the sun. It is your skin erecting a melanin shield against the sun. It is a darker skin tone that results from your skin soaking in the rays of the sun. This ultimately means that sun- lovers therefore are caught at a crossroad. The solution herein is to use a broad-spectrum SS. A sunscreen will reduce your ability to tan but it will provide you with the best sun-protection and a much safer exposure.



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