How does sunscreen work to protect your skin?
How does sunscreen work?
We’re often asked how does sunscreen work to protect your skin, so we went back to the basics. In a nutshell sunscreen blocks or absorbs UV radiation. Otherwise, these rays can damage the skin, cause sunspots on skin, and skin cancer. Sunscreen protects against two types of UV radiation: UVA and UVB.
UVA and UVB are the two primary forms of ultraviolet light that can cause damage to your skin. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause sunburn, but only UVA rays can speed up the aging process. Sun exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can result in skin cancer.
“UVA rays are a type of ultraviolet radiation that can penetrate the skin deeply and cause damage to DNA, leading to premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancer. They are present all year and can penetrate through clouds and glass, making it important to protect your skin from them on a daily basis. A broad spectrum protection sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, as well as protective clothing, are key in preventing UVA damage.” Skin Cancer Foundation
The sun’s ultraviolet A (UVA) rays penetrate deeply into the skin. They can give rise to skin allergies, sensitivity, skin thinning, sunspots on skin, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and loss of elasticity. They can also cause the skin to age faster than it should.
The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays mainly impact the skin’s surface. They are responsible for sunburns. Unfortunately, both UVA and UVB radiation can damage the DNA of skin cells, which over time can result in skin cancer.
How does sunscreen work in terms of ingredients? Sunscreen has a mix of chemical ingredients that work together to protect our skin from UV radiation. There are two main types of filters in sunscreen.
One is organic (called chemical filters), and the second is inorganic (called physical filters). Technically, all ingredients are chemicals.
Sunscreen includes various active ingredients. These ingredients work together to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. To answer the question: how does sunscreen work, we need to know how its ingredients interact with UV rays. They either absorb the UV rays, scatter them away from your skin, or reflect UV rays.
To absorb UVA light the best, sunscreens usually have organic ingredients like avobenzone. But how does mineral sunscreen work? Chemicals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are used in sun protection products but are not as effective for UVA protection. These chemicals function by deflecting or scattering UV light.
When sunscreen is put on the skin, it forms a protective layer that helps block or soak up the sun’s UV rays. You should apply sunscreen enough to cover all of the skin that’s exposed to the sun rays, the face, and hands are the main parts. This is important for all sunscreens, but especially for physical sunscreens. Remember to put it back on every two hours at least.
Use sunscreen daily year-round as part of your essential skincare routine. Avoid prolonged UV exposure. Be sun smart: wear protective clothing, hats & eyewear. Stay in the shade during peak hours 10 am – 4 pm.
Also, you need to reapply more often if you swim, sweat, or use a towel to dry off. Don’t forget that no sunscreen is water resistant, so you’ll have to put it on again. This will make sure that your sunscreen gives you the most protection possible. Putting on sunscreen every day can help lower your risk of skin cancer and keep you from getting older much faster than you should because of the sun.
How does sunscreen work in terms of protection from UVA vs UVB rays?
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two examples of active chemicals that can be found in mineral-based physical sunscreens. These substances work by putting up a physical barrier on your skin that reflects and scatters the UV rays, stopping them from penetrating your skin. Physical sunscreens used to be thicker, often leaving a white cast on the skin due to large, non-nano particle sizes.
However, this was an undesired feature that was putting many sunscreen users off. As a result, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen formulations with nanoparticle size have recently addressed this issue.
Mineral sunscreens are therefore mostly nano-based to not leave a thick coating on the skin and whiten the skin. The nanoparticle size of the chemicals allows for this improvement. Nanoparticles also don’t leave a thick film on the skin. However, there is some debate about whether or not nanoparticles are safe to use over the long term.
How does sunscreen work in terms of nanoparticles in mineral sunscreens?
The majority of sunscreens in the US, for example, contain nanoparticles. The FDA proposed a rule in 2019 that would revise regulatory criteria. Under the new rules that are being considered, some active chemicals, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which are often found in sunscreens, would need to be tested for safety. However, it hasn’t been adopted yet. [March 2023]
So how does sunscreen work for chemical sunscreens? If they include avobenzone then these active chemicals work by absorbing UV light and turning it into heat that the skin then releases. Chemical sunscreens are typically lighter and easier to apply; they also do not leave any sort of whitening effect on the skin.
Importantly organic ingredients in sunscreens need to be carefully checked to ensure they are safe, as well as effective. At Skinara, we never compromise on safety. We always make sure that your daily sunscreen has the best ingredients that have been independently tested for safety and won’t hurt you or the environment.
Mineral sunscreens are often less efficient than other types of sun protection when it comes to shielding your skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s UVA rays. It is essential to keep in mind that SPF stands for sun protection factor, but it actually refers only to protection from UVB rays and not UVA rays. You need to make sure that you are protected to the highest standard, having the same protection for both UVA vs UVB.
For example, if you have SPF 30, your UVA-PF, or UVA protection factor should also be at least 30. However, most sunscreens do not list their UVA protection factor on the label, and worst still is only one-third of UVA vs UVB protection.
At skinara we measure both sun UVB and UVA protection factors and we are the only company in the world that list them both on our labels. Use your favorite UVA UVB sun screens daily and reapply often, especially when you are outside for long periods of time.
Try skinara AgeScreen if you have skin that is easily irritated or if you have a history of allergic reactions. High-UVA sunscreen such as AgeScreen could be your best protection against sensitive skin and skin barrier problems. Also, as an organic sunscreen, which is lightweight and chemically derived, it is the best sunscreen for acne prone skin, or if you are looking for a sunscreen for combination skin or sunscreen for oily skin.
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