SPF FOR DUMMIES


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by FEM


You know that time of the year when your Instagram is flooded with images of sunny weather and sandy beaches... It's a period where you usually start hating Insta people for having money and time to spend on vacation somewhere in Asia. But fortunately for us, other losers, seasons change and we too can bask in the glorious sunshine. According to many studies, Vitamin D is great at fighting against depression. Sun exposure is therefore crucial for our health for several reasons. But not without SPF kids.

Before we enter the world of SPF, let us clarify another dilemma. The myth is that sunscreen prevents vitamin D absorption, therefore, you shouldn't use it. This could be true in theory in practice however, not so much.

We'd have to apply huge amounts of SPF creams to completely cover our skin and thus prevent UV rays. This procedure should be repeated every two hours or each time we step outside. That's quite unrealistic don't you think? So, there's no need to worry about that. What you should worry about however is age spots, wrinkles, and other skin issues that come from UV exposure. Oh, let us not forget skin cancer!

SPF

SPF stands for "sun protection factor". It's is an indicator of how much UV light a product can block. In general, a higher SPF rate provides more protection against UV exposure. The key thing to add to this equation, of course, is your skin type. To put it perfectly mathematically ... SPF 15 prolongs your burn time by 15 times. So, if your skin starts burning after 10 min of direct sun exposure you'll then have 150 min to get your ass into a shaded area. The important thing to mention here is that the SPF scale is not linear! SPF 2 blocks only 50% of UV light, while SPF 15 blocks 92% of the total UV spectrum. SPF 34, for example, blocks as much as 97% of UV light. Also, keep in mind that sweat and water wash away some percentage of that protection.

QUANTITY

A quarter to a half a teaspoon is the prescribed amount of cream that you should be applying to your face every two to three hours for complete protection. The amount varies with the size of the face. So, one bottle of SPF lotion is only enough for one week of vacation. Per person of course. If your applying technique is not as diligent choose a higher UV protection factor and this way you'll still get protected. In laboratories where SPFs are tested, the amount of cream per square centimetre of skin is enormous. That's quite unrealistic to be true. So just grab that SPF 30 and put it on your face. SPF 50 on vacation, please. This is especially important for those of you with rosacea.


CHEMICAL VS. MINERAL

The main two categories by which mineral ones are distinguished from chemical ones are ingredients and the way UV light is blocked.

The two active ingredients in mineral sunscreen are always titanium dioxide (Titanium Dioxide) and zinc oxide (Zinc Oxide). This protection works according to the principle of physically blocking UV light. It creates a filter on the skin that prevents harmful rays from entering. Mineral protective factors remain more on the surface and, due to their non-invasive nature, are best suited for allergy sufferers and those with sensitive skin (rosacea, etc.). The only downside to mineral-based creams is their chalky appearance. But you can get rid of this problem with a skilful application and choosing the right product.

Chemical-based protective creams usually contain a set of ingredients, the main ones being Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Avobenzone. These are absorbed into the upper layers of the skin, where they work in two ways: by scattering and repelling harmful rays, and by converting UV beams into heat and simultaneous deactivation. Unfortunately, some of the ingredients listed above fall into the category of potential hormonal disruptors. This simplified means that with their ability to mimic hormones, they can affect changes in metabolism, reproductive system, etc. Which is not exactly great. But before you get all frantic it's worth mentioning that some studies that tested these ingredients are not completely valid, as they are usually performed on animals that react to the ingredients differently than humans, or have been performed with too few test subjects over a short period. If you are still concerned about this, you can always reach for a mineral SPF.

Take time when applying a chemical-based sunscreen and wait for 15 min or more before you step into the sun. The particles that form the protective film need time to bond and absorb. Same goes for waterproof creams. So just get yourself a Sangria (or lemonade) and wait for those particles to bond.

 

Photo above from "La Grande Motte" by Jacquemus.


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