Sunscreens have come a long way since the greasy, coconut-scented Coppertones of the 1990s. The protectors of today not just shield the skin from the sun and counter free-radical damage, but also sit well under makeup and naturally on bare skin. The issue, though, is that the sunscreen market is saturated with products that each claim to be better than the competition. So which one should we be getting? Here, a few things to know before you hit the shelves.
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PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL?
This perennial question stems from a misconception that chemical and physical sunscreens work differently— with the former absorbing the sun’s rays (which can heat up skin and thus make it unsuitable for those with skin sensitivity) and the latter reflecting them. In actual fact, both types work by absorbing UV rays, says beauty educator and makeup artist Larry Yeo, adding that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. “A combination of both actually works best, as that offers a broader range of UV protection,” he explains. “One is not better than the other. The important thing is to pick one that you’ll consistently apply to reap the benefits of sun protection.”
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DOES FORM MATTER?
Sunscreens these days come in different shapes and sizes—from lotions to sprays, mists, powders, sticks and even cushion compacts—but are they all equal? Not quite. While sunscreen mists, powders, sticks and cushions are convenient, easy to use and perfect for reapplications (they tend not to disrupt your makeup), they aren’t exactly good enough to act as your only source of sun protection. You’ll still need to use a traditional sunscreen lotion as your first layer of protection before using these other forms of sunscreen to fill in gaps in the initial layer caused by photodegradation. And since sunscreens should be reapplied roughly every two hours, it makes sense to invest in a good mist, powder, stick or cushion for when you’re out and about.
The important thing is to pick one that you’ll consistently apply to reap the benefits of sun protection.”Larry Yeo, beauty educator and makeup artist
BLUE LIGHT PROTECTION: YAY OR NAY?
Blue light damage from electronic devices has been a concern of late, especially with the number of hours we spend staring at the computer and scrolling through Instagram on our phones. According to Dr Rachel Ho of La Clinic though, the blue light from electronic devices is less worrying than the blue light from the sun, which can induce hyperpigmentation
in darker-skinned individuals. “The intensities of the blue light from electronic devices are much lower than that of the blue light emitted by the sun—100 to 1,000 times less than sunlight in the same spectrum,” she shares. So shore up on your sun protection and look out for iron oxide, which can filter blue light, on the ingredients list.
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The Purito sunscreen scandal (a study found that one of the cult favourite South Korean brand’s sunscreens labelled SPF 50+ only offered SPF 19-level protection) may have cast doubt on the authenticity of SPF labels, but don’t let that stop you from using sun protection. Yeo shares that sunscreens are hard to formulate, with factors such as product stability, texture, consistency and the combination of UV filters affecting the final product. “Your best bet,” he says, “is to purchase from brands that have a history of making sunscreens, instead of brands that purchase OEM formulations from manufacturers. The Estée Lauder Companies, Shiseido Company, Kao Corporation and Amorepacific Corporation, for instance, all have a long-standing history with sunscreen formulation.”