We all know sunscreen, but how does it actually work to prevent sun damage in skin? Discover exactly how sunscreen protects you from the sun.
We’re all familiar with sunscreen, but how does sunscreen work to protect your skin? Understanding the science of sunscreen will help you choose the right sunscreen for your needs and apply it correctly to achieve optimal protection from the harsh Australian sun.
What does broad spectrum mean? What’s the difference between UVA and UVB radiation? This article answers these questions and more. Read on to discover exactly how body and face sunscreens protect you from sun burn and long-term sun damage, in addition to why daily sunscreen application is an essential final step in your skincare routine.
WHAT IS SUNSCREEN?
Incorporating a high SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreen into your daily routine is arguably the single best thing you can do for your skin. Sunscreens prevent the sun’s damaging UV rays from penetrating the epidermis by shielding the skin and creating either a physical or chemical filter.
WHAT DOES SUNSCREEN DO?
Sunscreens like those in our Anthelios range protect your skin from sunburn as well as long-term cellular sun damage. Wearing sunscreen every day remains important because while sunburn may be easy to recognise, long-term sun damage can take years to become noticeable. Sun damage at a cellular level can cause premature skin ageing and increase the risk of skin cancer over time.
WHAT DOES BROAD SPECTRUM MEAN?
Broad spectrum sunscreen formulas provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays. All ultraviolet radiation is not created equal. UVB rays cause sunburn or redness, whereas UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply (even through windows) and cause premature aging and even DNA damage that may not become apparent until years later. For this reason, including a broad spectrum sunscreen into your routine is essential to ensuring you’re adequately protected against sun damage.
HOW DOES SUNSCREEN WORK?
There are two different types of sunscreen formulas with their own separate ways of working. Chemical (also known as organic) sunscreens contain UV absorbers that absorb energy from harmful UV radiation and release it. In contrast, physical (also known as inorganic) sunscreens use UV reflectors that physically block UV radiation and reflect it away.
HOW DOES CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN WORK?
Most sunscreens on the Australian market fall into the organic filter category, such as our Anthelios XL Wet Skin Sunscreen SPF 50+. This type of sunscreen formula utilises multiple organic sun filters that absorb the sun’s rays before they can damage your skin. Common chemical UV filter ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone and octinoxate.
Organic UV filters work by absorbing UV radiation, converting it into a slight amount of heat, and then releasing that heat back out into the atmosphere. The level of heat involved in this process is so small that it is hardly noticeable.
Organic sunscreens have many advantages, but they also have their own disadvantages. On the positive side, chemical formulas can be lighter in texture while providing a high level of sun protection. This means they’re less likely to feel thick and leave a visible white cast on the skin. For example, our Anthelios Invisible Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+ is extremely lightweight while still providing very high UV protection.
Organic sunscreens can also combine multiple filter ingredients to achieve powerful broad-spectrum protection. Our Anthelios Ultra Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+ utilises multiple organic filters in an ultra-hydrating formula to provide very high SPF protection suited to dry skin types.
HOW DOES PHYSICAL SUNSCREEN WORK?
Physical or inorganic sunscreen formulas contain very fine mineral particles that rest on top of the skin’s surface to reflect UV radiation. The most common UV reflector ingredients found in physical sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
As with chemical sunscreens, physical formulas have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Physical sunscreens are usually thicker than chemical formulas, meaning they can be less suited to oily or acne-prone skin types.
Combing chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients helps create synergies for protection. Our Anthelios XL Anti-Shine Dry Touch Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+ combines physical and chemical ingredients for very high broad spectrum UV protection in a non-greasy formula
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOUR SKIN FROM THE SUN?
Sunscreens are a highly effective means of protecting your skin from damaging UV radiation, however they’re just one weapon in your sun protection arsenal. Build on the protection by wearing hats, sunglasses and covered clothing. Better yet, seek shade wherever possible or limit your time of skin exposure to direct sun light.
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE.
Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions.
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