Which is the Best Sunscreen?
We are all aware of the importance of sunscreens for protecting skin against the harmful effects of solar radiation, including premature skin aging and skin cancer. With such a wide range to choose from, how can we know which is the best option?
Do we really need the recommended SPF 30 protection against the daily "incidental tanning" we get on the way to work and lunch? Or would makeup with SPF suffice?
We decided to put a few popular sun protection options to the test with the help of the powerful VISIA Complexion Analysis camera system.
Our valiant volunteer is a 31 year old sunscreen skeptic who is not fond of outdoor activities, and uses sunscreen sparingly when she remembers to.
In general, products with higher SPF provided better protection, as demonstrated by the increased darkness with increased UV protection in these black light UV pictures. What is also apparent in these pictures is the type of product and application technique matter as well.
For Pictures 2 and 3, we asked the subject to apply a popular brand of powder makeup with SPF 20 and a liquid foundation with SPF 15 respectively, to mimic a "medium" coverage day makeup look for the office.
Unfortunately, neither seemed to deliver adequate and even protection, as compared to the dedicated sunscreens which also have higher SPF.
Another interesting thing to note was the powder conferred less protection than the liquid foundation, even though its labelled SPF is higher.
In fact, the difference between powder and liquid SPF is so great, you would need to apply approximately 14 times the amount of powder to actually achieve the listed SPF, according to one study.
Picture 5 captured a fascinating "Eclipse" phenomenon - with the Form l Matter ECLIPSE SPF 50 sunscreen lotion. Beyond broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection, ECLIPSE has phyto-melanins for extended protection against the High Energy Visible (HEV, or what is commonly referred to as blue light) light spectrum.
This high energy blue light has deeper penetration than UV, and can increase collagen breakdown, hyperpigmentation, dryness, sensitivity and inflammation. Most sunscreens available currently only contain UV filters, which do not protect against HEV.
Besides the sun, smartphones, computer screens and indoor energy saving light emit HEV as well. Both Form l Matter YOUTH anti-aging serum and Form l Matter EYE WISH eye serum also contain HEV filters against digital pollution - even at night.
Adding antioxidants and DNA repair enzymes to your skincare regime is another way to help counter the damage from UV, HEV and infrared rays.
This mini experiment is also a reminder that eyelids, ears, lips and nose tip are areas that tend to be forgotten when applying sunscreen lotion (Picture 5). Unfortunately, these oft-neglected areas are particularly susceptible to damage due to the thin, delicate skin.
Form l Matter HELIOS SPF 30 Day Wash (Picture 4) is not only a convenient UV protectant to encourage daily use, this innovative sunscreen cleanser allows more thorough protection, even over eyelids, nose, ears and neck. In fact, it is our go-to for head-to-toe, water-resistant protection on ourselves and our kids before heading out for some fun in the sun.
All exposed areas need to be protected with a SPF product and/or clothing if you are going into the sun. This includes exposed scalp in men (try HELIOS wash and a cap). Don't forget to protect your lips with a SPF lip balm or lipstick. Sunglasses with UV protection are not only helpful to cut glare and wrinkle-accelerating squint, but will protect your eyes from premature cataracts as well.
"What about sunscreen sprays?" is another FAQ. These are often non-sticky and present a convenient option to cover large areas quickly. FDA is still evaluating the effectiveness of spray sunscreens, as it is more challenging to advise how much spraying is sufficient and if it is uniform.
Please avoid directly spraying the sunscreen onto the face to prevent inhalation of the product. Spraying onto your hands before applying to the face would avoid inadvertent inhalation and ensure adequate coverage.
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It is a well-known fact that most of us are only applying 25 to 50 percent of sunscreen that is needed to achieve the level of SPF listed on the label. This means the suncare you apply on a typical work morning is unlikely to last you till lunch when you face the strong midday sun.
Layering products can help ramp up your SPF. In the case of our sunscreen averse subject, using a liquid foundation SPF over the sunscreen wash and touching up with powder SPF seem to provide good UV protection till midday (Picture 6).
Layering with generous double application of your sunscreen and protective clothing is a great idea when intense sun exposure is expected: Direct exposure, especially between 10am to 4pm. Activities that involve swimming, sweating or rubbing (e.g. frequent face wiping during a golf game). Snow, water and metal surfaces (more light reflection), and high altitude. As a rough gauge, seek shade or reapply your sunscreen at least every 2 hours if you are swimming or sweating.
A study showed an average person used up to 100 percent more sunscreen with double application, and this also greatly reduced missed areas. Oral sunscreens such as Heliocare are another popular layering option.
In case you are still wondering if you really need to use suncare daily because you "stay indoors most of the time" or "today is a cloudy day", the answer is "YES".
Those dark sunspots on the subject's cheeks that are revealed on the UV pictures are actually still not visible with the naked eye. Sun damage is happening - Silently. Everyday. Beneath your skin - even when you don't feel it.
Back to the original question. The best basic option for you is a dedicated broad-spectrum UVA/B sunscreen with at least SPF 30, in a suitable texture (wash, gel, lotion, cream) that you wouldn't mind using sufficiently, thoroughly and daily. Products with additional HEV filters, antioxidants or DNA repair enzymes to fortify your environmental defense would be a big plus.
Remember: If you can see the light, the light can definitely see you too.
Wondering if your sunscreen is working for you? Get your VISIA Complexion Analysis at MOYEM Medical Aesthetics today.
Form l Matter products are exclusively available at MOYEM Medical Aesthetics.