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4000 Aurora Avenue North
Seattle, WA, 98103
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Sunscreen, Now not just for Summer

Sugar Plum Life Blog

Sunscreen, Now not just for Summer

Rachel Tassew

A lot of our guests ask us about sunscreen -- when they should wear it, if they should wear it... and the answer is repeatedly, “Yes, all of the time, yes!”

Whether you are out on a tropical island soaking in the rays or walking your dog around a lake on a typical cloudy day in the Pacific Northwest, keep sunscreen in mind for your daily skincare routine. Not only are sunburns uncomfortable, they also accelerate your skin’s aging process. Applying a protective layer of sunscreen prolongs the vibrancy and youthfulness of your skin. 

Sunscreen is beneficial in all kinds of weather. Many people think an overcast day is the same as sun protection. However, it is quite the opposite. Clouds are a collection of teeny tiny water droplets. Since water reflects and magnifies light, clouds can let through 80% of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.

What can we do to prevent the damaging effects of UV rays, be it sunny or cloudy? For exposed skin, apply a lotion with a minimum of SPF 15 before you spend time outside. On cloudy days, your skin may be covered by long sleeve shirts and pants, which will protect you from UV rays and weather. Since your face and hands are open to exposure, an application of SPF 15+ can protect your skin during times that UV rays are most intense. The job of a sunscreen is to reflect UV rays, absorb UV rays, or both. 

A funny thing with sunscreen is it only works when you put it on exposed skin within the time and quantity suggested by the manufacturer. Approximately 2mg of sunscreen for every square inch of skin exposed is the necessary amount. Reapplication is required every few hours. Think about that. Most sunscreens come in 8oz bottles. To use it correctly, that bottle would only last you one day on vacation! What?!

To give you an example, I personally burn in the sun in about 10 minutes (with the right conditions). If I use SPF 15, then I have 15 times longer before I burn, allowing me 2 hours and 30 minutes before I’ll be sorry. If I sweat, the time before I burn shortens. If my clothes or towel rubs my skin, I burn even sooner. My skincare routine would not be complete without a healthy dose of sunscreen.

There are a number of factors that go into choosing a sunscreen that is best for you. So let’s walk through some guidelines.

Sunscreens must have an SPF on the label. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) blocks UV rays chemically or physically depending on the ingredients. SPF measures the time it takes for your skin to begin to redden in the sun. The percentage makes a difference too. SPF 15 gives you 93% protection from the sun. However, SPF 50 only props it up to 98% sun protection. Nothing on the market will give you more than 98% coverage. Think of SPF as an extra layer, more of a thin barrier and not a complete shield. 

The optimal sunscreen has a “broad spectrum” SPF. That means it has a chemical absorber and a physical reflector/blocker. Physical blockers have particles that reflect sun away from the skin. These are the only two physical blockers that the FDA approves of: 

  1. zinc oxide
  2. titanium oxide

Only SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher can claim to reduce skin cancer and early aging. Others can only claim sunburn prevention. Waterproof, sweatproof and sunblock are no longer permitted labels on sunscreen, because they are untrue.

Chemical sunscreens form a thin layer on top of the skin and absorb UV rays before it gets to the skin. Here is a list of the 15 FDA Approved chemical sunscreens:

  1. Aminobenzoic acid
  2. Avobenzone
  3. Cinoxate
  4. Dioxybenzone
  5. Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)
  6. Ensulizole
  7. Homosalate
  8. Meradimate
  9. Octocrylene
  10. Octinoxate
  11. Octisalate
  12. Padimate O
  13. Sulisobenzone
  14. Trolamine Salicylate
  15. Oxybenzone

Now when you are out at your local drugstore, you can have an idea of what to look for in a sunscreen. Consider finding sunscreen for your daily skincare, as well as for extended sun exposure: vacation sunscreen and playing in the park sunscreen. Show off your beautiful, youthful, smooth skin when you want to. Remember your sunscreen, and enjoy the sunshine!