Things to consider when choosing a sunscreen

September 25, 2014 Beauty Edits Skincare
girl tanning in the sun

My tube of Aēsop  Sage & Zinc Facial Hydrating Cream has about a few days’ use left, so I did some research on facial sunscreens to see what I should consider when sunscreen shopping.

Remember guys, I’m by no means a skincare expert so these are only very top level things to consider!

What is SPF?

aesop sage and zinc facial sunscreen

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the number that accompanies this acronym only measures how sufficiently a sunscreen protects you from UVB rays.

Multiplying the number by 10, gives you an indicator of how long you can stay in the sun for before you burn.

So for example, if your skin usually burns after staying in the sun for 10 minutes then an SPF15 sunscreen would give you about 150 minutes before you start to burn.

UVA rays vs UVB rays

Simply put, UVA rays don’t actually cause your skin to burn but they’re the naughty ones that prematurely ages your skin, giving you wrinkles, saggy skin as well as sun spots.

UVB rays are responsible for the tanning of skin and is also what ‘burns’ your skin. They’re known to be one of the contributing factors for skin cancer too!

Either way they’re both damaging to the skin so next time you’re in the market for a new sunscreen, make sure to keep an eye out for ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘broad spectrum UVA/UVB’ on the labels!

Water and sweat resistance

DID YOU KNOW that sunscreen brands are no longer allowed to claim being waterproof or sweatproof?

They cannot call their products sunBLOCK anymore either because all of the above claims are all false.

There’s no such thing as waterproof or sweatproof sunscreen, nor does sunscreen completely block out the sun.

Choosing a water-resistant sunscreen merely gives you approximately 40-80 minutes when swimming, so make sure you reapply each time you jump back in!

Chemical vs Natural sunscreen

chemical vs natural sunscreens

Image: Author Unknown

Natural sunscreens:

  • Deflect the sun’s rays
  • Use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the ‘sunblocker’
  • Generally don’t chemically react in the sun
  • Can cause breakouts (titanium dioxide) but zinc oxide based sunscreens can be used on sensitive skin
  • Are usually thicker and greasier
  • Protect instantly after application but needs to be reapplied more frequently than chemical sunscreens
  • Don’t generate free radicals.

Chemical sunscreens:

  • Generally absorb the sun’s rays
  • Common ingredients include: octylcrylene, avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone, homosalate, helioplex and 4-MBC
  • Are mostly photostable (don’t react in sunlight) except for avobenzone
  • Tend to be more irritating to skin and stings your eyes if you accidentally get it in your eye
  • Is usually colourless and runny
  • Have a wait time before they ‘activate’ for sun protection
  • Some chemicals are photosensitive so they can cause irritation and skin damage.


So there you have it! Some general guidelines to keep in mind next time you go shopping for a sunscreen!

Featured Image: Shutterstock, Ann Haritonenko

Much love,

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