Sunscreen 101 – Keep Your Skin Safe and Well-Protected This Summer

Avoiding direct sun exposure for a prolonged period of time is the cardinal rule of skin care and it’s what dermatologists highly recommend since there’s sufficient evidence proving that exposure to UV rays can cause skin cancer and even eye damage. However, avoiding sunbathing altogether is easier said than done. For that very reason, establishing good sun-protection habits is essential for having beautiful and healthy skin. From walking on the shaded side of the street to wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, hats and clothing, the bottom line is that you need to wear the right sunscreen whenever you’re out. When used correctly, sunblock can decrease your risk of developing skin cancer and prevent skin aging.

cute blonde girl on sunny days putting sunscreen

How Does Sunscreen Work?

No matter where you are, the beach, the mountain or just walking down the street, if you are outside, your delicate skin is exposed to the sun’s invisible yet damaging rays. And yes, this happens even on cloudy days. Ultraviolet rays (UV) can damage the DNA of your skin cells, resulting in gene mutations which can lead to skin cancer. A good sunscreen will protect your skin and reduce these damaging effects.

exotic island using sunscreen

Sun protection products work in two ways, depending on their composition – they either reflect or absorb the UV rays. Sun cream lotions that feature inorganic chemicals in their composition help to physically protect against or repel the sun away from the skin. Dermatologists explain that ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide work by reflecting the sun’s rays, similar to how white paint reflects light. The images of white-coloured noses on the beaches in the 1980s and 1990s are a great example of that. The reason why we don’t see white-coloured noses on the beaches anymore is that manufacturers have made the particles in these chemicals smaller, so they are no longer visible when applied.

Sun care products with organic, carbon-based ingredients, like oxybenzone and avobenzone, on the other hand, absorb the sun’s radiation through their chemical bonds so that the skin doesn’t have to. As the bonds absorb the radiation, the chemical compounds in the sun protectant slowly break down and release heat.

What Does SPF Mean?

protecting children with sunscreen

Nowadays you can easily buy sunscreen online with different SPF rating. SPF refers to how well the product protects against UVB radiation. Choosing what strength of SPF sun cream lotion to buy depends on which part of your body do you intend to use it most, the sensitivity of your skin, the activities you will be performing as well as your skin type. While it is recommended to use a product with SPF between 15 and 50, consider using anywhere from 30 to 50 SPF as a daily facial sun cream lotion. Keep in mind that if you have sensitive skin, you may experience more irritation with higher strength products. Research has shown that SPF 15 protects against about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 shields you from 97%. Research has also proven that SPF ratings higher than 50 have not been proven to be more effective than SPF 50 products. According to experts, no level of SPF can block UV rays 100%.

How Long Does Sunscreen Last?

staying safe on sunnydays with sunscreen

The SPF number also gives you an idea of how long it will take for your skin to burn or turn red when exposed to the sun. For example, an SPF 15 sunblock will prevent your skin from burning about 15 times longer than it would take for it to get damaged without protection. This means that if your skin would start burning in 10 minutes without sun cream lotion, an SPF 15 sunblock will delay that effect for 150 minutes. Considering the fact that most people don’t know the base rate for their skin to burn, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people reapply sunscreen block minimum every two hours, regardless of the strength of the product they use.

Can You Tan with Sunscreen?


Although UV protection can slow down your tanning process, it won’t stop it completely. As a matter of fact, the body protects itself through tanning. Tanning helps your body to tolerate the sun without getting sunburned. So it’s important to reapply sunscreen to get effective protection against radiation.

Does Sunscreen Expire?

natural sunscreen
Yes, they do. The FDA requires all sun protection products to be marked with an expiration date. But in case you can’t really read the date on the sunscreen you’re using, use your common sense to determine whether it’s good to be used. If a product does not look, smell or feel the way it did when you originally purchased it, you shouldn’t use it. The changes in its consistency can be a sign that the product’s ingredients are no longer active. In other words, you will have a false sense of protection against the sun and are more likely to develop a sunburn. Know that even unopened sun cream lotions can lose their efficacy over time, so it’s best to be cautious. Experts recommend buying new sunscreen products every season.