As the weather warms up, I get a lot of questions about sun protection every day. Therefore, I had the idea to put all my thoughts in this article, since sun protection is a particularly broad and important topic. There are also many different and debatable opinions on this topic. I want to share with you the collected information and my personal opinion, so that you can draw your own conclusions and decide which SPF product to choose. In this article, I would like to cover a lot of things that you should know about sun protection, what is often overlooked, which SPF filters are the best to choose, which are the safest and most effective, and which ones I would suggest to avoid. In order to be able to give you not only theoretical knowledge, but also to recommend specific products, I have purchased and tested over 30 of what I believe are the best SPF creams on the market, I have tried them all myself and I will definitely tell you about them all. But first, I invite you to read this important information.
Why should we protect ourselves from the sun all year round?
1. In order not to get skin cancer - melanoma.
People with fair skin and many moles should be especially careful when enjoying the sun's rays, because their bodies produce less melanin, which is why such people are more prone to skin cancer. The sun's rays cause not only skin burns or cancer, but also photoaging.
2. In order not to grow old before time and to preserve our youth.
Apart from cancer, ultraviolet rays of the sun negatively affect our skin and promote its aging processes, this is called photoaging , which occurs from UVA, UVB sunlight, but UVA rays cause special damage to our youth. They break down elastin and collagen, promote inflammatory reactions, slow down skin healing, and promote skin pigmentation. All these processes influence the accelerated aging process of the skin, according to research it has been proven that more than 80% of skin aging processes are influenced by the sun. Therefore, we need sun protection all year round, especially if we want to preserve our youth for longer.
In the photo below, you see a man who has been a truck driver for 28 years and the right side of his face received direct UVA sunlight. The right side, which was not directly touched by the sun, remained intact.
What is SPF and what does the number next to SPF tell us?
SPF translated from English as "Sun Protection Factor" is the sun protection factor, and the number indicated next to it is the protection strength indicator.
SPF15 protects against 93% of UV rays, SPF30 from 97%, SPF40 from 97.5%, SPF50 from 98%. Therefore, even with SPF cream, some rays will still affect our skin.
It is very important to mention that the SPF index in protective creams only measures protection against UVB (UVB = mouth) rays, unfortunately not against UVA (UVA = aging) rays. Some sunscreens only protect us from skin-burning UVB rays. Therefore, it is necessary to choose only such creams with SPF, which are called broad spectrum, which means that they will protect the skin from both rays and from premature aging.
The picture shows how important it is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with filters that protect the skin from both UVB and UVA rays.
The most interesting thing is that 90% of UVA rays and only 10% of UVB rays reach the earth. And UVA filters are the most dangerous because we can't see their damage at all, the skin doesn't burn from these rays, they pass through glass/windows indoors or in a car and reach even the deepest layer of the skin and damage it. Today, scientists are convinced that UVA rays can indirectly affect cancer.
In the table you can see the most popular sun filters used in sun creams, next to it is indicated whether they protect the skin only from UVA or UVB rays, or both rays.
Types of SPF filters, what are they and how to distinguish them?
1. Mineral or, in other words, physical filters , there are only two, so it is not difficult to distinguish between them: zinc oxide (zinc oxide) and titanium dioxide (titanium dioxide). They reflect UV rays from the surface of our skin like a mirror. They are considered the safest and most effective (especially zinc oxide). They protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays and work immediately after application, no need to wait 15-20 minutes. until going outside (as opposed to chemical filters). Physical/mineral filters are recognized as the safest and most stable SPF filters on the market, and they are also the most suitable for sensitive skin, people with allergies, children, nursing and pregnant women. Looks absolutely perfect, doesn't it? But why isn't everyone using them?
Because most of them (especially in the past) left an undesirable whiteness on the skin, which was very unpleasant for people from an aesthetic point of view, they were also much more difficult to distribute on the skin. Indeed, even today you can find such tools for the day, which I personally do not like and cannot use. I will admit that it is very difficult to find the perfect SPF product with mineral filters, because their molecules are white in color and not all manufacturers manage to make one that distributes nicely on the skin and does not give a whitish tint. Manufacturers have started using "nano" particles to make creams with a better consistency with mineral SPF, but this is not safe. In fact, it is very important that you learn to read the label and if it says "mineral" or "physical" you should not rush to buy the product, because it is possible that the manufacturer uses a "nano" mineral filter, which enters our body and then also becomes harmful.
In order to find the best SPF creams, I bought and tested a lot of them at my own expense, to make it easier for you to find the nicest and nicest products. I will definitely tell you about all of them.
So, I would suggest avoiding SPF creams if you even see the word "nano" next to the list of mineral sunscreen ingredients:
- Zinc Oxide nano
- Titanium Dioxide nano
2. Chemical SPF filters . There are many chemical filters. Cosmetics companies are always trying to invent and create new ones that are more effective and safer. The principle of operation of all of them is to absorb the energy of sunlight and turn it into heat. Although there are mixed opinions here, some say that mineral filters also partially absorb and convert the sun's rays into heat. Most chemical filters protect the skin only from UVB rays, so they are often "combined". They don't leave a white cast and are often lighter in consistency, so people naturally prefer them. But there are many scientific studies that prove the harmful effects on the human body. in 2020 The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has proven that the 6 most commonly used chemical sunscreens in America enter the human bloodstream even after a single use. Some of them remain in the human body for weeks. Last year, the FDA had to re-review their safety requirements, but the global Covid pandemic has slowed down all processes.
in 2021 The FDA released a 159-page document with hundreds of scientific studies that divided all sunscreens into three groups:
- Safe and effective solar filters : this group included only 2 filters, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (both mineral).
- Unsafe and effective : These are chemical filters such as PABA and trolamine salicylate.
- Sunscreens with insufficient evidence of their effectiveness and safety : oxybenzonate, avobenzonate, cinoxate, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, meradimate, padimate O, sulisobenzone.
This means that all widely used chemical filters fall into the third group - which means that the FDA lacks the evidence to justify or condemn these chemical filters and classify them as safe and effective, where mineral filters currently are.
In the picture you can see a comparison of the principle of operation of physical (mineral) filters and chemical filters.
in 2019 FDA scientists conducted a study with 24 volunteers, the results of this study showed that after using the most popular chemical filters on the skin for just 4 days, a high concentration of them enters the human bloodstream. What was the amount? Already after the first day of the study, in the evening in the blood of the volunteers (blood samples were taken daily) higher numbers than indicated by the safety requirements were found.
The results of the study are shown in the table below.
Already in 2004 scientists have proven that after using chemical filters, they do not leave our body for a long time - they can be found in our blood, urine, breast milk. Their side effects: skin allergies, changes in hormones in the body, can affect the development of cancer or fertility.
I don't want to be too bold and not recognize any chemical filters at all, some of them are recognized as safe today. They are not from the list of popular filters in the USA, they are more used by European manufacturers.
Chemical filters that are currently recognized as safe in Europe :
- Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine
- Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate
- Ethylhexyl Triazone
- Ethylhexyl Salicylate
- Diethylhexyl Butamido Triazone
- Drometrizole Trisiloxane
- Phenylene Bis-Diphenyltriazine
- Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol (Tinosorb M)
Chemical filters I would suggest avoiding:
- Octyl Methoxycinnamate / Octinoxate
- Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate
- Isoamyl Methoxycinnamate
- Tris-Biphenyl Triazine nano
- Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol
- Ethylhexyl Dimethyl PABA / Padimate O
- 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor
- Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane / Avobenzone
These days, more and more companies are making combined sun filters . They mix both chemical and mineral SPF filters. In many cases, one can be deceived and think that the cream contains mineral sun filters, although in fact it is combined.
Below is another table where you can see the different most popular filters and what length of UVA or UVB rays they protect against. UVC rays do not reach the earth because they are blocked by the ozone layer in the atmosphere.
How much SPF cream to apply on the face?
It is recommended to use 1-2g or 1/4 tablespoon of SPF cream. There is also a two-pistol rule, which you must have seen everywhere. SPF cream should be applied last, after all toners, serums and face creams. Sometimes, depending on the composition, the SPF cream can also replace the day cream.
SPF cream should be renewed every 2 hours. How to do it?
Of course, we won't start removing our makeup and reapplying SPF while we're at work. We can renew the SPF without damaging the makeup, but rather by "refreshing" it. There are quite a few tools for this: dry loose and compact mineral powders with SPF filters. I personally recommend powders with physical/mineral SPF filters. The choice is certainly not small and each of us should have at least one product to renew the SPF during the day, it should be a convenient product for you to throw in your handbag. I will definitely show you all the available tools later :)
Is it necessary to use SPF products every day or only on hot and sunny days?
In order to stay healthy and young, we need to protect ourselves from UVB and UVA rays every day, not just when we go to the beach. Therefore, it is very important to have several products with SPF filters that suit and like you the most and to use them with pleasure. After all, this will help us preserve our youth. The skin around our eyes is especially sensitive, wrinkles appear in the eye area. It is also especially important to know that strong SPF protection is necessary when going outside after such procedures as: acid facial cleansing, applying a product with retinol or vitamin C to the face.
Do you need SPF protection for your lips, say gloss with SPF?
Yes, if you know how not to eat it :) For example, I'm not very good at it. The bottom line is that even mineral filters should only be used externally. There is evidence that titanium dioxide (a mineral filter) that enters the body can also have a negative effect on health. Therefore, I would suggest applying SPF only to the very contour of the lips, so that wrinkles do not form there. I recommend being more careful with balms and glosses with SPF if you tend to accidentally eat lipstick or lick your lips. No SPF filter, neither mineral nor chemical, is healthy if it enters our body. So, if you put it on your lip, don't lick it under any circumstances!
Also, be careful with spray sunscreens, they may be convenient, but they should never be inhaled. The same goes for brushes for SPF renewal and loose powders with SPF - try to choose brushes that don't leave a big mist of powder as soon as you touch it to the skin. I avoid spray SPFs, even mineral ones, especially for the face, because of the risk of inhaling them.
Does a healthy tan exist?
The reality is that there is no such thing as a safe tan. The skin takes on a beautiful brown shade only after it is damaged, when the DNA of the cells is damaged, which is caused by UVB rays. Excessive tanning has serious consequences - it is not rare to get skin cancer. Next time we will talk about safe "tanning" in the bath, as I joke, that is, about the safest and most effective means of self-tanning.
Diversity of opinions about SPF filters:
In no way do I want to offend anyone, there are and always will be different opinions. But most of them stem from a lack of knowledge. I very often have to discuss this topic with cosmetics representatives or beauticians who distribute products with popular chemical filters and they always answer that "nothing there penetrates into our blood, everything remains on the surface of the skin", "there are such small amounts that there really is no negative impact on our health", "we believe that mineral filters protect the skin from the sun worse than chemical filters". Well here is their opinion and let it be their opinion, we can all have our own opinion. Only all these statements contradict the latest scientific research. Therefore, I keep believing in scientists and this is my personal choice :) Also, a very common comment is "mineral filters clog the skin". Sorry, I'm not a chemist, but as far as I know, a mineral filter like zinc oxide has anti-inflammatory properties on the skin and is great for people with acne and sensitive skin. After all, that's why women who have switched from traditional cosmetics to mineral cosmetics notice that they peel less, their skin gets better. Zinc oxide does not clog pores, it "sits" on the surface of the skin. Additives that are added to creams with SPF clog the skin, but here you should already see which ingredient is not suitable for you. It is very important to wash off the cream with SPF well at the end of the day. New research on SPF filters is coming out every day, and if I learn something I will definitely add to this article.
In summary, today mineral filters such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are recognized as the safest SPF sun filters. For chemical filters, although some are considered safe to date, most still lack clinical trials (or are considered safe in the EU and suspect in the US). Therefore, if you do not want to risk, you will never go wrong by choosing creams with mineral filters.
In this article of mine, I will share with you all the sun creams whose composition I liked and which I tested with reviews and recommendations.
If you liked my article and learned something new, I would be very grateful if you would share it with all your friends who may find this information relevant. Especially as the hot summer season approaches.
Let's be not only beautiful, but also healthy :)
Author of the article: Karolina Taraškevič-Bethel . The article may not be copied or distributed without mentioning the author of the article.