Do Sunscreens Really Help Skin Care?

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sunscreenHealth tips – We all aspire to have flawless, younger looking skin. With time, skin starts showing signs of ageing and we develop blemishes, lines and wrinkles which make us look mature. Some of these signs of ageing are genetic or intrinsic to our system and we can do little to alter that. However, there are many extrinsic factors external to our body system that can also accelerate the ageing process. UV damage is the most common extrinsic factor and one that can also be easily controlled to reduce the ageing of the skin. Scientific studies show that people who use sunscreens regularly have younger, softer skin compared to those who do not subscribe to sunscreen use.

For the sunscreen to be effective, it needs to be used correctly.

Broad spectrum sunscreen: Use a sunscreen with both UVB and UVA protection.

Check the SPF: The sun protection factor (SPF) is a laboratory measure of the effectiveness of the sunscreen against UVB radiation, i.e., the higher the sunscreen, the more effective it is. Generally a sunscreen with SPF 30 plus is considered suitable for daily use. The degree of UVA protection is measured in terms of PA (protection grade of UVA). A sunscreen of PA ++ is considered adequate UVA protection for daily use.

Amount to be used: A 1/4th or 1/3rd  of teaspoon is required to cover the entire face. If you use less than this amount, then you do not achieve the SPF and PA mentioned on the sunscreen bottle.

When to use: The sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before the UV exposure. It then needs to be re-applied after 2 hours. In India, due to the constant sweating, we tend to rub the sunscreen off and it is advisable to re-apply every 2 hours.

Climatic conditions: At least 80 per cent of UV radiation penetrates through clouds, hence it is important to use sunscreens on cloudy days. The same applies for winter when seemingly there is not much in terms of visible sunlight in the atmosphere.

There are certain conditions which enhance UV exposure. This includes swimming, skiing and high altitudes like holidays in the hills. It is important to use a sunscreen regularly at these times as well.

How do I choose my sunscreen? The choice and variety of sunscreens available in the market is baffling. Broadly speaking, the following tips may help you choose the appropriate sunscreen.

  • Broad spectrum: A sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • You can use water resistant sunscreens while swimming. If a sunscreen is water-resistant, it is mentioned on the jar. The duration of time that the sunscreen provides protection for in water is also mentioned on the jar.
  • People who suffer from pimples can use gel based sunscreens. People with dry skin may use lotions which also have the benefit of hydrating the skin.
  • Sprays can be used on the exposed area of arms and legs, they can be spread out more easily.
  • Babies under 6 months of age have very sensitive skin, they should not use a sunscreen. Infants and toddlers upto 3 years of age can use sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide only.
  • I would strongly recommend trying out a few sunscreens until you find one that suits your skin and you are happy with the feel of the sunscreen. Once you have found the appropriate sunscreen, use it regularly to slow down ageing and greatly reduce your risk of certain skin cancers.

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