Fairy Friday | Basic Sunscreen Knowledge

Let’s all welcome this lovely Friday with a big smile!

I am so thankful that my skin has protected me throughout my life and that, so far, it has always been healthy and a real trooper. I want to start to really give back to the skin that has served me so well over the last decades and I want to spread the message about sunscreen and skincare.

A reminder up front: the most important thing to remember when reading someone’s skincare advice is that you are the expert when it comes to your skin. I can only share what I do or find most helpful and hopefully some of it will be helpful to you as well. Always make sure to do your own research as well and go see a dermatologist regularly. That being said, let’s get started, shall we?

Weekend is when I like to catch up on my (not very elaborate) beauty routines and I do believe that taking care of your skin should be one of your beauty or health priorities. The weekend is also the perfect time to be outside and enjoy some sun, especially during the summer months. While that would not be too noteworthy a conversation for many people, it definitely is for very fair skinned people who tend to burn within minutes of exposure to sunlight, aka Fairies.

Before you crawl back into a dark corner, thinking there is just no point in even going outside with that ivory complexion of yours, keep calm and read on. The sun is such a lovely thing and if you know how to conduct yourself in its presence then the two of you might just become the best of friends after all. All you really need is some sunscreen knowledge.

Here are a few pointers I’d like to share and, once again, I invite you to research appropriately and figure out your ideal sunscreen routine:

Types of UV radiation and what they do

There are different types of ultra violet rays and sunscreen can help protect you from UVA and UVB rays.

UVB rays are mostly responsible for visible sunburn (or tan…for some people), while UVA rays – which also surround you on cloudy days – are mainly known to cause „invisible“ damage deeper within your skin or cells. Since neither sunburn nor cell damage sounds sexy to me, I am Team Sunscreen. It seems only obvious that you should protect yourself well enough from both types.

SPF and why it’s not all that counts

The SPF or sun protection factor gives you an indication as to how much of the UVB radiation is blocked out. For instance, SPF 20 means that about 95% of the UVB rays are absorbed (in a good way) by your skin and only one twentieth is not absorbed, while SPF 30 will absorb about 97%. The higher you get, the smaller the difference becomes, so in case you’ve been feeling extremely superior with your SPF one million: sorry to burst your bubble.

A more practical approach to SPF decoding is to take the SPF and multiply it with the minutes you can usually stay in the sun without burning (in case it’s only seconds, you poor person, go ahead and divide that by 60). If that is 5 minutes and you have SPF 30 then that gives you about 150 minutes (5 x 30) of sunburn-free time. Bear in mind though that sunscreen should be re-applied every few hours and this is not the time or place to be lazy!

SPF only gives you protection from UVB rays. To protect also against UVA rays, make sure you have a good broad spectrum sunscreen. Sounds very high-tech, but all it means is that it protects both from UVB and UVA rays. UVA protection needs to be at least one third of UVB protection for it to be a true broad spectrum protection, so make sure to check labels or text on the pack. In some countries, UVA protection is indicated by PPD (permanent pigment darkening) values or PA values with plus signs. The higher the value or the more plus signs, the higher the protection against UVA rays. Yay.

Chemical vs. physical sunscreen

There are two types of UV filters and both help protect you from the sun in different ways. Just like chocolate and Netflix (two great ways to momentarily protect me from bad moods), both have their pro’s and con’s, and often it is up to personal preference which is best for you.

Chemical sunscreen protects your skin from UV rays by absorbing them and thereby making them less harmful. Confusingly, chemical filters or sunscreens are called organic sunscreen, but this has nothing to do with it being „organic“ in a healthy way. On the plus side, these sunscreens are generally able to offer good UVB and UVA protection and their texture is often nice and easy to apply. On the negative, chemical sunscreens are more likely to cause skin irritation, must be applied 20-30 minutes before sun exposure and some chemical actives are criticized for being unhealthy in one way or another.

Physical sunscreens block or deflect UV rays from your skin. Their biggest drawback is often the texture because physical sunscreens are usually hard to apply and leave you looking even more white (yes, it is possible) due to their thick texture. Honestly speaking: you will have to rub like crazy for a very, very long time until the layer of lotion reaches and acceptable thinness. Additionally, not all physical sunscreens offer good UVA protection and that is indeed very sad. On the other hand, they tend to be less irritable because they don’t penetrate into your skin like chemical filters do and they are usually pretty safe from an ingredient perspective, unless they contain physical filters (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) in form of nanoparticles. In the latter case, some research suggests they might not be safe because these nanoparticles are so small that they can get into your blood streams and organs and could cause unwanted effects there. No, thanks.

So, what to do?

I always find it extremely overwhelming to look for a good sunscreen. There are so many things to consider and it almost feels like all possible ingredients have some drawback and will kill you sooner or later. Despite that, optimistic individual that I am, I will continue to try different types of sunscreen to see which ones I like best and which ones meet my needs and standards. I do want to look for a sunscreen that doesn’t contain nasty ingredients and of course I want to find one that gives me good protection against UVB and UVA rays. The only way to do this is to keep looking, stay conscious of ingredients and just try and see what works best.

It is never too late to start a healthy sunscreen routine and you cannot change your past behavior, but you can start a better one, so please take care of your skin from this day forward and help protect is as well as you can.

Love – The Fairy Pales

 

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