Beyond the Basics of Sun Protection for Your Skin

Beyond the Basics of Sun Protection for Your Skin

As the sun’s rays feel harsher than before, it’s important to know more than just the basics of sun protection. Applying sunscreen is not merely a step in your morning routine; you need a thorough understanding of this essential product to maximise its benefits. Today, let’s explore some of the lesser-known facts about sunscreen usage. 

How does sunscreen exactly work?

Sunscreen works by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation before it can penetrate the skin and cause damage. 

Oxybenzone, avobenzone, sulisobenzone, and other chemical sunscreen ingredients absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat, which is then released from the skin. On the other hand, mineral sunscreen ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide physically block, reflect, and scatter UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. Broad-spectrum sunscreens may be a better option because they can shield against UVA and UVB rays, which can contribute to sunburn & skin cancer.

How about the SPF? The SPF or Sun Protection Factor number indicates how much of the sun’s burning radiation (UVB) can reach the skin. For example, an SPF 30 sunscreen allows 1/30th of the burning radiation to reach the skin.

A single application isn’t enough. 

Sunscreen can lose its efficacy over time due to ingredient breakdown. So, applying sunscreen in the morning isn’t enough; you must reapply every two hours or after sweating or towel drying. That’s especially true if you’re using mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide & titanium dioxide and want to ensure continuous protection. 

Going swimming? Sunscreen is essential for water-related activities like swimming, surfing, and snorkelling, as water can reflect UV rays and increase exposure. Apply sunscreen frequently for adequate protection, especially after being in the water. Some sunscreens are labelled as “water resistant” and can maintain their SPF protection for a certain period while swimming or sweating. Still, it’s best practice to reapply your sunscreen, especially after drying your skin after swimming.

If you’re hiking or going outdoors instead, be sure to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out to allow your skin to absorb the product fully. That rule applies to most sunscreen products, except for those zero-wait-time versions. Again, reapply sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if you’re sweating or towelling off. 

How much sunscreen should you apply? Most adults need about one ounce to cover their entire body. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin; pay extra attention to often-missed areas like the lips, ears, around the eyes, and the scalp if you have thinning hair. 

Sunscreen products don’t last forever.

Contrary to popular belief, sunscreen products don’t last forever. Most sunscreens are designed to remain stable and effective for about three years, after which they may degrade and become less potent. 

But the story doesn’t end there—once a sunscreen is opened, its shelf life is typically reduced to just one year, even if the expiration date has not been reached. So always check the expiration date and use your opened sunscreen within the recommended timeframe to ensure maximum protection.

Always pick broad-spectrum protection.

Not all sunscreens are created equal when it comes to shielding your skin from the sun’s rays. While many people are familiar with the importance of SPF, it’s crucial to look for sunscreens labelled “broad-spectrum.” Why? These products protect against UVA and UVB rays, which contribute to skin ageing and sunburns. So, applying broad-spectrum sunscreen ensures comprehensive coverage against the sun’s harmful effects.

Moreover, note that higher SPF doesn’t equal all-day protection. SPF only indicates how long it takes for protected skin to burn under the sun’s rays. SPF values beyond 50 can lead to complacency in reapplication, so now that you’re aware they don’t mean all-day protection, remember to lather your skin with sunscreen every two hours. 

The truth about sunscreen and vitamin D.

One common misconception is that sunscreen will eliminate your body’s ability to produce vitamin D. Studies have shown that sunscreen doesn’t reduce the skin’s capacity to generate vitamin D from sunlight. Plus, most people can still obtain sufficient amounts through diet and incidental sun exposure during outdoor activities. So, don’t let concerns about vitamin D deficiency deter you from diligently applying sunscreen.

You should apply sunscreen even on overcast days or indoors.

Some people say that sunscreen isn’t necessary on cloudy days or indoors. But the truth is up to 80% of UV rays can pass through clouds, and UVA rays can penetrate windows. So, it’s essential to maintain a consistent sunscreen routine, regardless of the weather and your location. And again, reapply your sunscreen every two hours or frequently. If you spend a long time near windows, you must reapply sunscreen every three to four hours since UVA rays can still penetrate through glass.

Sunscreen shouldn’t be the sole line of defence. 

What protects skin from the sun?

While sunscreen is a crucial component of sun protection, it should not be the sole line of defence. Combining sunscreen with other sun-safe practices, such as seeking shade and wearing protective clothing & sunglasses, can provide the most comprehensive protection for your skin. Sunscreen doesn’t guarantee skin cancer prevention—think of it as just one piece of the puzzle in your sun-safe routine.

Using skincare products with SPF is good, but there are some important considerations. 

Overall, moisturisers, facial creams and other skincare products with SPF can be a good option, but there are some important considerations:


  • Convenience: Combining moisturiser and sunscreen into one product can make it easier to remember sun protection as part of your daily skincare routine.
  • Broad-spectrum protection: Many SPF-infused skincare products provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Suitable for daily use: SPF moisturisers are often lightweight and formulated for everyday, all-over applications, unlike heavier sunscreens.


  • Potential for inadequate protection: The amount of sunscreen needed for full SPF coverage is often more than people apply when using an SPF moisturiser. Reapplication may also be overlooked. 
  • Potential for irritation: Some chemical sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone can be irritating or disruptive to the skin and hormones.
  • Expiration and shelf life: SPF moisturisers have the same expiration and shelf life concerns as standalone sunscreens, requiring attention to use within the recommended timeframe. 

In summary, SPF-infused skincare products can be a convenient option. You should, however, be mindful of applying enough products, choosing formulas with mineral/physical sunscreens, and being aware of expiration dates. 

Final thoughts

When you know beyond the basics of sunscreen, you can elevate your sun protection game and safeguard your skin more confidently. Embrace the power of knowledge and enjoy life with the peace of mind that your skin is well-protected—no matter where you are at any time of day. 

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