Sunscreens Demystified

Nowadays, Sunscreens have become an integral part of daily skin care routine. Still many of the people face lot of queries and doubts about their sunscreen which remain unanswered. I compiled all those common (..and some uncommon ones ) queries which were asked by my patients.

Why it is necessary to use a sunscreen?

Ultraviolet rays in sunlight are harmful to human skin and may lead to tanning, sunburn, early aging and skin cancer if exposed regularly. Sunscreens filter these UV rays and thus protect our skin from its effects.

What ingredients to look for on label while buying a sunscreen?

Mineral (Physical) sunscreens are – Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Iron oxide

Broad spectrum sunscreens- TInosorb S & M, Mexoryl SL & XL

UV A filter sunscreen – Avobenzone, Uvinul A, Oxybenzone

UV B filter sunscreen- Octinoxate, Octisalate, Ensulizole

How much quantity needs to be applied?

Ideally we need to apply more than half a teaspoon amount for entire face and neck area.

But in reality the amount applied is approximately 1/3rd of this amount. In effect if you apply a sunscreen with SPF 15, then you are actually applying amount equal to only 3-5 SPF.

Can I immediately go out after applying sunscreen?

No. For most sunscreens to work properly, you need to apply it at least 20-30 minutes before sun exposure. However mineral based sunscreens can be applied just before sun exposure.

Once applied, how long does it stay? Can I reapply it without washing the face again?

Staying power of the sunscreen is called as substantivity. Not all sunscreens at a particular SPF will give the same protection. Some sunscreens get washed with rubbing or sweating. So opt for a sunscreen which has good staying power. Generally you need to reapply it every 2-3 hours especially if you are in direct sun or every 40-80 mins if swimming or perspiring profusely (depending on sunscreen used).

Some newer generation sunscreens now provide protection lasting up to 8 hrs.

You can reapply the sunscreen directly without washing the face.

If I wear makeup and I am out full day then what precautions to take?

Use a long lasting sunscreen before applying makeup. Cover all exposed areas with broad brimmed hats, protective clothing & umbrella. Nowadays tinted (skin colored) sunscreens are available and allow hiding minor blemishes on face.

Should I always use higher SPF?

Always opt for sunscreens with minimum of 30 SPF. This will in actuality give you a protection of about 15 SPF. Also do not rely only on SPF, look for PA rating which is protection index against UVA rays (the rays responsible for tanning).

I remain indoors most of the time and travel only by car. Do I need to apply sunscreen?

Yes. UVA rays get filtered even through windows/glass panes. Also while travelling you are exposed to scattered rays. Indoor lights like halogen quartz or fluorescent bulbs emit ultraviolet rays so it is worthwhile to use a sunscreen.

Can I use it on lips?

Regular sunscreens for body use are not formulated for lips. Use a lip balm with added sunscreen.

I tend to sweat a lot after using sunscreen? How to then find the best one for me?

Many sunscreens work by converting UV rays into heat which can cause sweating. If you find it uncomfortable, switch to mineral based sunscreens.

I get tanned despite using sunscreen. Does it even work?

If you do not use sunscreen correctly i.e applying adequate amount, reapplying every 2 hrs, there is a chance that you will get tanned and blame the sunscreen. Take extra measures to protect yourself from direct sunlight. Prefer sunscreens of good companies and which has good substantivity.

Is sunscreen only for summers?

70-80% UV rays are filtered through clouds. Even if it is raining heavily it is always advisable to use one to maintain health of skin. Always use sunscreens throughout the year.

Is there any side effect of sunscreen?

Sunscreen can cause allergic reaction or acneiform eruption or may sting eyes. In case you have any doubt then mineral sunscreens are safe to use, with minimal side effects. Talk to your dermatologist if you develop any side effect or have a sensitive skin type.

What are the limitations of sunscreen?

They do not provide protection against entire spectrum of sunlight- namely infrared rays and visible light. Earlier it was only the ultraviolet rays which were blamed for skin damage. However studies now show that even visible light and the heat (i.e infrared rays) cause photoaging and melasma.


Is it safe to use sunscreen for kids?

Yes, it is safe to use it on kids more than 6 months of age. Use mineral based sunscreen only. Safer option to protect them from sunlight is by using umbrella, protective clothing etc.

Can I apply it on our pets?

Human sunscreens are not made for animal skin as animals tend to lick their bodies resulting in toxicity. Opt for a sunscreen specially formulated for pets if necessary.

Hope this answers most of your queries and helps you use your sunscreen the best way possible. Happy Sunscreening.


Eternis Skin & Hair Clinic, Pune