While we all need a little sun exposure for a vitamin D fix, too much sun can be dangerous. If you’re not already wearing sunscreen on your face all year round, now is probably as good a time as any to think about adding one to your daily makeup routine.
That skin tightening serum you swear by? It means nothing if you’re not tackling the thing that’s most damaging to your skin – UV rays.
If you’re feeling a little clueless, don’t worry: here’s our crash course on SPF, just for our best beauty friends. We’ve got you covered, literally.
What does SPF mean?
Let’s start with the basics first.
The SPF number is an indication of how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product versus the amount of time without any sunscreen.
Using a product with SPF30 means that it would take you 30 times longer the duration to burn than if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen.
What should I look for when purchasing a sunscreen?
A few years ago, choosing a good sunscreen meant you just looked for a high SPF. Research soon showed, however, that Ultraviolet A rays (UVA) also increased the risk of skin cancer.
While UVA rays don’t cause sunburn, they penetrate deep into the skin and can cause wrinkles and other visible signs of ageing. Up to 90% of skin changes associated with ageing are really caused by a lifetime’s exposure to UVA rays.
To achieve maximum protection from UVB and UVA rays, always look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
For UVB rays, the SPF number (e.g. SPF 15) rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn.
Historically, SPF only takes into account one type of cancer-causing UV rays: Ultraviolet B (UVB). With the knowledge that UVA rays are just as harmful to the skin as UVB, regulatory agencies in most countries, especially in Europe and America, have begun using SPF to indicate both UVA and UVB protection.
One rating that could indicate effectiveness at blocking UVA rays is the PA rating – yes, that’s the “PA++++” that you see on sunscreen bottles. This rating, however, was designed by the Japanese Cosmetic Industry Association, so you may see them on most sunscreen from Asian brands, but they may be missing on those from European or American brands.
The problem with the PA rating is that it is measured based on how fast it causes skin to turn brown from sun exposure. However, different people’s skin turn brown at different rates and extents with sun exposure, so the system of measuring can be pretty inconsistent.
Busted: do the numbers really matter?
Keep in mind that just because the SPF numbers are higher doesn’t mean that benefits get proportionately higher as well. For example, SPF30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF15.
While SPF15 filters out 93% of UVB, SPF30 filters out 97%, only a slight improvement.
Another important thing to remember is that wearing a sunscreen with a higher SPF value won’t allow you to stay out longer since the effectiveness of sunscreen decreases over time.
This is worse if you’re swimming or sweating away in the sun, because the moisture can wash the sunscreen away, leaving your skin less protected.
Dermatologists recommend a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for any extended outdoor activity. Regardless of the SPF, it is also recommended to reappl sunscreen every two hours.
Please don’t wait to see if your skin is turning red before reapplying, since a sunburn may take up to 24 hours to fully appear!
What is the proper way to apply sunscreen?
For the face, apply sunscreen after your moisturiser and before your foundation. It also needs to be applied correctly to be effective, so make sure you’re using a decent amount. Dot sunscreen directly onto your face instead of squeezing a giant blob onto your hands and applying it.
Lastly, make sure to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out – this ensures that your skin has enough time to absorb the good and ready itself for the bad.
We recommend applying sunscreen before you leave home in the morning all year round, even on cloudy rainy days! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate through clouds and fog and the most serious burns occur on overcast days because people tend to neglect their sunscreen while staying outdoors longer.
Our top picks
1. Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer (SPF 47)
Josie Maran’s quick-absorbing, lightweight Argan Daily Moisturizer is powered by zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
The argan oil and green tea tones provide soothing nourishment to balance skin tone and texture while delivering sun protection and anti-aging benefits.
Available on Sephora USA for USD32 (approx SGD41).
2. MISSHA All Around Safe Block Waterproof Sun Milk (SPF 50)
With SPF50+ and a waterproof formula, MISSHA Sun Milk will absorb into your skin in seconds and won’t leave a greasy, filmy residue behind.
It contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as well as dimethicone which helps to create a matte finish. You can use it on your face and body, and multi-functional products are our faves!
Available at MISSHA stores for US$29 and on Olive Young for US$25 (shipping fees apply).
3. Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence (SPF 50)
This water-based sunscreen is designed with a convenient matte effect to create a smooth finish, a perfect fit for those with oilier skin.
It has a subtle fruity aroma and a waterproof formula that allows you to sweat and swim for over 80 minutes without losing your protection. We still recommend re-applying it after this time though!
Available at Watsons Singapore for SGD16.
4. COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream (SPF 50)
It makes sense that this soothing sunscreen gets its nourishment from the aloe plant.
The lightweight consistency rapidly absorbs into the skin while providing long-lasting protection against UVA and UVB rays. Since aloe is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, this cream is perfect for those with sensitive, damaged, or sun-kissed skin.
5. The Face Shop Natural Sun Eco Sebum Control Moisture (SPF 40)
If you have sensitive skin, this is the sunscreen for you. The natural formula controls sebum production and saps away excess surface oils on your face.
It has also received rave reviews from users with oily skin, combination skin, and even pesky acne. They’ve claimed it’s a miracle product!
Available at all The Face Shop outlets and Hermo for SGD27 (shipping fees apply).
6. ALGENIST Sublime Defense (SPF 50)
Suitable for everyday wear, the alguronic acid in the sunscreen is combined with UVA/UVB protecting actives to deliver anti-aging and sun-proof properties.
This oil-free, sheer formula has a silky texture and weightless feel, designed to apply smoothly on top of other skin care products and under makeup for a soft, matte finish.
Available at Sephora for SGD53.