It’s no secret that sunscreen is the most important, yet most overlooked, part of any beauty routine. Over the years, experts from all corners of the world have asserted the importance of wearing sunscreen to prevent the harmful effects of sun exposure.
A photo that went viral recently showed the drastic effect of UV damage on areas of the body not covered by sunscreen as opposed to the face where sunscreen was applied regularly.
But why is using sunscreen necessary? “With over 80 percent of facial photoaging caused by sun’s rays, sunscreens remain the best way to prevent skin ageing of exposed parts—typically the face and the neck,” says Dr. Renita Rajan, dermatologist and founder of RENDER Skin and Hair, “In India, we have a fairness craze. People turn to bleach creams and steroid creams for skin lightening. These creams have a very bad impact on the skin, in the long run. On the contrary, sunscreens provide a very good skin brightening effect for those looking for skin rejuvenation, anti-ageing, and very good support for dermatologists trying to tackle pigmentation conditions. And the best part is, sunscreens have nothing but a very beneficial effect on the skin.”
If you’re someone who is guilty of skipping sunscreen once in a while (or altogether) then there’s no time like the present to start, “Just like how it is never too late to start eating healthy or start working out or getting started on mindfulness or meditation, it is never too late to start a healthy habit like sunscreen usage,” assures Rajan.
Now that we’ve established that using sunscreen every day should be a mandate, we decided to ask the expert to bust some of the most common myths around sunscreen usage…
Myth: You don’t need sunscreen if you’re indoors
With work from home becoming increasingly common during, and after, the pandemic, the time we spend outdoors has decreased to some extent. Most people have taken it as a cue to go lax on using sunscreen every day. Why use it if you’re only going to spend the day in your room and in front of your laptop, right? Wrong, says Rajan. “We do need sunscreen indoors, given that we live in a hot, humid country with high levels of UV exposure around the year. Studies have shown indoor UV indices to be as high as 8 and 9 in well-ventilated homes in India. Plus you might also want to talk about ambient light defence, either with sunscreens containing blue light-blocking antioxidants or tinted sunscreens.”
Myth: You don’t need sunscreen when it’s cloudy outdoors
Most of us believe in not using sunscreen when we can’t even see the sun while stepping out of the house. Turns out, that’s a folly. “You need sunscreen even on cloudy days because most of the UV spectrum, especially UVA, can get past the clouds, and UVA is the main culprit in photoaging as we see in Indian skin types. So yes, if you are looking to prevent sun tanning, sunspots and sun-induced skin ageing, you need more than cloud cover—you need broad-spectrum sunscreen!”
Myth: You need sunscreen only during Summer
As the temperatures outside drop, it’s easy to assume that the sun won’t have as much effect on your skin as it does when it’s sweltering out. Rajan points us toward the nearest weather app to check the UV Index of our region to understand that colder temperatures don’t mean an absence of exposure to UV rays!
Myth: SPF in make-up is enough
A lot of make-up products come equipped with sun protective elements. While that’s an added bonus for your skin, it doesn’t mean you can only rely on the SPF in make-up to do the job of a sunscreen. “The SPF on the skin, regardless of the SPF stated on the label, is dependent on the quantity of product used. For example, in vitro studies have shown that an SPF 35 sunscreen applied at half the recommended quantity will only reach between 20 and 25 SPF, while an SPF 8 sunscreen when applied at 2mg/cm2, can give up to 40 SPF,” says Rajan, “The usage of the product is going to be suboptimal, and therefore the protection is going to be suboptimal. Also, we use foundation very unevenly, more in some areas, less in some areas, and highlight some areas, so it would be patchy sun protection at best.”
Myth: Sunscreen is waterproof and sweat resistant
According to Rajan, this may very well be a fact since there are many studies that have proven the water and sweat resistance of sunscreens over long periods of time. However, she says that this varies from sunscreen to sunscreen. “Water resistance is not equal for all sunscreens and depends on the formulation. So it is important to look for sunscreens that specifically state that they are water resistant.”
In the end, Rajan advises that it would be wiser to switch to mineral sunscreens or use chemical and mineral sunscreens, in a balanced way to prevent long-term issues. “More importantly, use clothing to protect areas which can be covered by clothing and use sunscreen on areas which can’t be covered by clothing,” she says.
There you have it! Repeat after us: Do not skip sunscreen. Now say that ten times to yourself everytime you think of stepping out of the house and we’re golden!
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