Sun is the source of all life on earth. Yet, beneath the sun’s benevolent glow lies a paradoxical truth—a duality that both nourishes and challenges our skin. While sunshine can be invigorating and mood-lifting, it also brings along the invisible dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. To shield our skin from the sun’s harmful effects, sunscreen becomes an essential companion. Let’s delve into the truth about sunscreens and why you should make them a non-negotiable part of your daily skincare routine.
Let’s first explore the potential harm the sun can inflict on your skin.
UVA rays, often referred to as “aging rays,” penetrate deep into the skin and can cause long-term damage. They are responsible for premature aging, leading to wrinkles, fine lines, and a loss of skin elasticity. UVA rays can also contribute to the development of age spots and pigmentation issues.
UVB rays, on the other hand, are known as “burning rays.” They primarily affect the outer layer of the skin and are responsible for sunburns. Prolonged exposure to UVB rays can increase the risk of skin cancer.
According to studies, the negative impact of visible light (VL) is underestimated. VL can cause erythema where the skin becomes red and inflamed, or pigmentation such as melasma (dark patches on the face) and solar lentigines (age spots), which is common in people with darker skin tones. It can contribute to the development of wrinkles and other signs of aging as well as skin cancer.
Now that we understand the threats posed by the sun, let’s investigate how sunscreen acts as a protective barrier.
The primary function of sunscreen is to create a shield on the skin’s surface that absorbs or reflects UV radiation. Broad-spectrum sunscreens are designed to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, ensuring comprehensive coverage.
By applying sunscreen, you reduce the risk of sunburn, which not only causes immediate discomfort but also contributes to long-term skin damage. Sunburns can accelerate skin aging and increase the likelihood of skin cancer.
Consistent sunscreen use has been linked to a decreased risk of skin cancer, including the deadliest form, melanoma. It acts as a vital tool in the prevention of this potentially life-threatening disease.
If youthful, radiant skin is your goal, sunscreen is your ally. It prevents premature aging by shielding the skin from the harmful effects of UVA rays, such as wrinkles and age spots.
Sunscreen also plays a crucial role in preventing and minimizing pigmentation issues. It helps maintain an even skin tone by reducing the risk of hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure.
Many studies around sunscreen awareness and usage highlight the lack of awareness about sunscreens and their importance. Only about 33% respondents used sunscreens on a daily basis according to a ProdegeMR survey. A large proportion of the population is unaware of sunscreens.
The Oily Feel: One common concern is the perceived greasiness of sunscreen. Many in India hesitate to use it due to the fear of their skin feeling overly oily, especially in the sweltering heat of summer.
Sticky Look: The notion of sunscreen leaving a sticky residue on the skin can be off-putting. People often worry that it might make them look less fresh and presentable.
White Cast: Some sunscreens, particularly those with high SPF, can leave a white cast on the skin. This cosmetic issue doesn’t align with the desire for a natural, healthy appearance.
Increased Sweating: In a country known for its scorching summers, the prospect of increased sweating due to sunscreen application can be a deterrent. Sweating is already a challenge, and sunscreen’s potential to exacerbate it may discourage its use.
Aggravation of Skin Issues: Individuals with pre-existing skin issues, such as acne-prone skin, may fear that sunscreen will worsen their condition. This concern often leads to avoidance.
There exists a surprising lack of awareness regarding the importance of sun protection in India. Many are unaware of the risks posed by prolonged sun exposure and the role sunscreen plays in mitigating these risks.
For some, sunscreen is perceived as an added expense. In a country where budget-conscious decisions are the norm, the cost of quality sunscreen can deter individuals from incorporating it into their daily routine.
A common misconception is that sunscreens are unnecessary if one stays indoors. However, UV radiation can penetrate windows making indoor spaces far from immune to its effects. Artificial lighting can have a negative impact on skin as well. This misunderstanding leads to a false sense of security and a reluctance to use sunscreen indoors.
The fear of chemical exposure through sunscreen is a concern shared by many. Some individuals worry about the ingredients in sunscreen and their potential impact on health, leading to skepticism and avoidance.
The skincare market is flooded with various sunscreen options, each claiming to offer unique benefits. This abundance of choice can overwhelm consumers, leaving them unsure about which product is best suited for their specific skin type and needs.
Now that we’ve established the importance of sunscreen let’s address some common myths that often discourage its use.
Fact: While it’s true that individuals with darker skin have some built-in protection against UV radiation, they are not immune to its effects. Darker skin can still suffer from sunburn, skin damage, and an increased risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen is essential for everyone, regardless of their skin tone.
Fact: Sunscreen does reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. However, you can maintain healthy vitamin D levels through diet and supplements while still protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.
Fact: Not all sunscreens are created equal. There are two main types: chemical and physical (mineral) sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation, while physical sunscreens create a barrier that reflects it. The choice between them depends on your skin type and personal preferences.
Also, the addition of antioxidants and use of other natural ingredients in sunscreen formulation makes a huge difference in skin protection. Just screening from the sun is not enough, reversing the free radical mediated cellular damage caused by UV and visible rays is essential for protecting and enhancing skin health in the long term.
Fact: UV radiation can penetrate cloud cover, so sunscreen is necessary even on cloudy or overcast days. UV rays are also reflected off surfaces like water, sand, and snow, increasing your exposure in these environments. Your skin also needs protection from artificial lighting indoors as well.
Most chemical ingredient based sunscreens are rigorously tested in labs to formulate products that are quite safe to use on a regular basis.
However, specific sunscreen ingredients have been banned in certain island nations due to them being toxic for sea life, even though they are safe for the human skin. Some ingredients are known to be hormone disruptors, some cause allergies and skin irritation.
As a safe alternative, nature based sunscreens provide broad spectrum protection and have nourishing and healing properties. Addition of antioxidants, For example, Dr. Pooja’s Trqois Terra Kudzu-based Face Cream with SPF-15 is a great option for protecting your skin from the elements.
For our skin the sun’s rays are both friend and foe. While sunlight brings warmth and joy, it also conceals hidden dangers in the form of UV radiation. Same goes for light emanating from other sources like fluorescent lighting, laptops and smartphones. Sunscreens are a critical tool in defending our skin against the perils of sunburn, premature aging, and the ominous shadow of skin cancer.
Everything has pros and cons, and sunscreen and its use are no different. Seeking knowledge about sunscreen and its benefits as well as increasing one’s awareness about ingredients go a long way in eliminating common misconceptions and concerns. In case of any doubts, you can always reach out to your Dermatologist for expert advice on finding the best product for your skin.
So, the next time you step out, remember the truth about sunscreens. They are not just another skincare product; they are your steadfast guardians, preserving the beauty and health of your skin for years to come. Include a good sunscreen in your daily ritual, and let your skin bask in the glow of protection and care.
People very aware of ban on sunscreens due to chemical content in certain island countries
Toxic to sea life, then they feel some harm will happen to humans too.
Certain sunscreen ingredients are known to be hormone disruptors, some cause allergies and skin irritation
Skepticism about the ingredients, avoidance
Just screening from the sun is not enough, reversing the free radical mediated cellular damage caused by UV and visible rays is essential for protecting and enhancing skin health in the long term.