I think with the rising temperatures, many of us face the challenge of finding the right sunscreen. I use sunscreens all year round, but there’s something about summer that makes picking one more difficult than in any other season. So I thought I would share some tips and considerations that you may find helpful while looking for your new suncare.
When picking a sunscreen, think about how and when you’re going to use it. Are you going to use it on its own or under makeup? Are you going to apply it before a daily stroll or doing sports outside? A slight digression, I’d recommend UPF clothing for the body if you do sports.
The texture of sunscreen is important, but your daily activities should be the key factor while choosing suncare. For instance, some products may work well under makeup, and some don’t. A lightweight sunscreen may feel great on the skin, but it won’t hold well against sweat and friction during a workout. So pick a suncream suited to your lifestyle and ponder over the idea of buying more than one product because you may end up needing more than one type of suncare product.
When it comes to sunscreen filters, the most unfortunate people of the world are Americans; the companies there can formulate with only 12 UV filters if I am not mistaken. In comparison, in the EU, 31 UV filters are allowed for use. That’s a considerable difference, and the old chemical filters don’t offer satisfying protection against the UVA light, so you may be doing yourself a disservice by buying American suncare, which only contains chemical filters. However, if you want mineral sunscreen, it’s a different story. I’d recommend using suncare products with newer filters. I particularly like combination preparations that include chemical and mineral filters, especially Japanese formulations with zinc oxide, which protects both against UVA and UVB rays.
Sunscreen must offer protection not only against UVB but also UVA light. The anti-UVB properties of sunscreen are pretty easy to understand; they are expressed with the SPF rating in almost the entire world. However, when it comes to UVA protection, things get a bit complicated. In the EU and other parts of the world, we use the encircled UVA symbol to indicate that the UVA protection level is at least a third of the UVB. With a similar purpose, in Asia, the PA rating system is utilised. So when I shop for Asian sunscreens, I assess them with the 1:3 ratio in mind. For example, if a product has SPF 30, I make sure that it has a PA rating of either two or three pluses. In the case of sunscreens with SPF 30+, I look for a rating of four pluses. When it comes to sunscreens with SPF 50 or above, I only buy products with four pluses, the maximum, which equals to PPD 16 or above. It’s an estimate, but I know that I get some kind of decent level of protection in this way.
Unfortunately, not everyone is well-read in sunscreen labels, and brands take advantage of that by deceiving shoppers when their products fall short with respect to anti-UVA properties. European consumers are particularly vulnerable to such brazen marketing tactics, as the labelling regulations here are recommendations, not laws, so the brands are responsible for following them.
For example, in the case of Clinique, on their sunscreens, you will find letters ‘UVA’ enclosed in a rectangular-shaped logo; to a regular sunscreen user, it may appear as the encircled UVA symbol, but they are not the same. In all fairness, few of Clinique’s sunscreens meet the EU standard, and you will find the encircled UVA symbol on those, but the majority doesn’t.
Some brands put statements such as ‘UVA/UVB Protection. In such cases, you don’t know what kind of protection you get. Furthermore, the imported ‘Broad Spectrum’ term has no bases here in the EU, as it is considered a vague claim. Then we have brands who put both the ‘UVA’ and ‘UVB’ in circles. Again, we cannot be sure if the sunscreen meets the EU standard because it doesn’t follow the labelling recommendation. You would need to contact the brand to know the truth.
And last but not least, a practice, which I increasingly see appearing with both imported and European sunscreens, of trying to hide behind the Asian PA rating, namely, for products that do not meet the EU standard brands print the PA pluses on their labels. The prime example is Clarins’ release of this year, the UV PLUS [5P] Anti-Pollution Translucent with SPF 50 and PA +++. There is no way that the product comes close to the EU standard as the PA +++ equals to PPD between 8 & 16. It is surprising to me since its predecessor, the UV Plus Anti-Pollution Sunscreen, adhered to the EU standard. I don’t how about you, but when a sunscreen is reformulated, I expect it to perform better, especially when it comes to UV protection.
Similarly to Clarins, Neutrogena’s sunscreens disappoint in preventing UVA damage. Their sunscreens are immensely popular, but only thanks to countries where the PA rating was adopted we can learn that they provide a low anti-UVA buffer. It’s due to the old filters used in American sunscreens. Instead of using newer filters for export products, American brands prefer to sell inferior quality suncare to the rest of the world. For this reason, I don’t use American chemical sunscreens.
The next time you’re looking for sunscreen, consider these three points, reflect before purchasing. Sunscreen is crucial for preserving the health and balance of your skin and think about incorporating UPF clothes and accessories into your wardrobe. Do not forget that sunscreen does not provide 100% protection. Besides suncare use, remember to seek shade, cover with fabrics as they provide more durable camouflage than sunscreens, and wear sunglasses as eye health is imperative. These easy steps can help you with safe sun exposure practices.