The Lowdown on Sun Protection

Sun Protection for yoru skinThe sun is getting hotter and the days are getting longer. Are you covered in the SPF department? As an esthetician I obviously recommend sun protection products as a staple in every home care regime. My clients often ask me my opinion on sun protection, and want clarification. Here are the 6 most common questions I get in the treatment room, as well as my answers:

Question 1: Which SPF is best to use?

Answer: The SPF (or Sunburn Protection Factor) stands for the number of minutes the product protects you multiplied by the number of minutes you can be out in the sun unprotected without burning. This means that if you normally start to burn after 20 minutes in the sun unprotected, you can get by with an SPF 15 product for 300 minutes, or roughly 5 hours (which is a LONG time to be out in the sun anyway!) You still need to re-apply and check for water-resistance, etc. Currently, SPF measures the protection from UVB rays only – according to the FDA. I suggest that my clients concentrate on the ingredient list and quality of the sun product instead of focusing on getting the highest SPF factor. An SPF 50 won’t protect you MORE than an SPF 8, it will only protect you LONGER.

If you are planning on being out in the sun longer than 3-4 hours, bring a hat and find shade. Here’s a great company that offers hats with built in UV protection – and they’re actually CUTE: San Diego Hat Co.

Question 2: What ingredients should I look for?

Answer: Look for natural sun-blocking ingredients like Zinc Oxide in the active ingredient list. Zinc protects better than any other mineral or ingredient, and it acts as an anti-inflammatory for your skin as a bonus. Other active ingredients that may be combined with Zinc Oxide include Titanium Dioxide, Parsal 1789, Avobenzone and Mica.

Question 3: What ingredients should I avoid?

Answer: Like any skin care products; try to stay away from an overabundance of fragrance, parabens, and synthetic ingredients. Also, be wary of too much Vitamin A. While it does act as a skin-strengthening antioxidant, it also makes the skin more sun sensitive and is not needed in a sunscreen.

Question 4: Are the expensive sunscreens from the spa really superior to the drugstore brands?

Answer: Again, the ingredient list trumps everything else. There are certain ingredients (mentioned above) to look for and to avoid. Some spa-quality sun products tend to be less synthetic and lighter weight – decreasing the chance for breakouts and irritation.

Question 5: What’s the difference between sun block and sunscreen – and which one is better?

Answer: Sunscreen allows UV rays to enter the body, chemically altering them so that the skin does not burn. Sun Screen is meant to allow the skin to tan (produce melanin) but not burn. Sun block refers to a product that does not allow UV rays to enter the body. **According to the FDA, the word sun block, along with the word waterproof, is not recognized and not allowed to be used in over-the-counter products – as stated in a release dated May 21, 1999

Question 6: Are tanning beds better than lying out in the sun?

Answer: Believe it or not, in my pre-esthetician days – I actually managed a tanning salon. We were taught to educate clients on the “safety” of the tanning beds as they limit many of the burning UVB rays. However, artificial UV light set that close to your skin is bound to have damaging effects, not to mention the heat radiating from these bulbs can irritate, even burn the skin. Stay away from tanning salons unless you are spray tanning.

For more information from a reliable professional source: Check out this great article on SPFs and the FDA from The queen of mineral make-up, Jane Iredale:

To hear it straight from the FDA: check out this helpful post on UVA and UVB protection, as well as recent changes to SPF regulation.

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