Here’s the thing about sunscreen—it’s not just for overly sunny days or trips to the beach. You’re actually supposed to slather on the stuff every day, rain or shine, because you get exposed to evil UV rays whether or not it’s overcast and gloomy outside. So if you want to spare your skin the damage—whether from sunburn, wrinkling, or probable skin cancer—never go easy on sun protection.
Let’s back up a step though. How exactly does sunscreen work? And what’s the deal with SPF?
Skin damage is caused by radiation
Sunscreen is a substance that helps protect you from UV radiation. Specifically, it prevents UVA and UVB rays from reaching your skin. Unlike, say, Superman or Captain Planet, our sun's radiation is not good for you at all. UVA can lead to photoaging, a.k.a. light-induced signs of skin-aging like premature wrinkles, sagging, hyperpigmentation, leathering, and other lasting skin damage. UVB, on the other hand, is the main reason behind sunburns.
Both types of UV rays are harmful and studies have shown that both can contribute to the development of skin cancer. No unprotected tan sesh is worth that risk, bros.
So how does SPF come into play? Short for Sun Protection Factor, SPF is the measure of how well your sunscreen can shield your skin from UVB damage. It approximates the length of time your sunscreen will work based on skin type and intensity of sun exposure. So if your skin typically starts getting red and flaky after 20 minutes under the sun, you multiply that by the SPF (say SPF15, so 300 minutes or about five hours) and that’s supposedly how long you’re safe from burning.
Does this mean covering yourself in SPF130 should keep you protected for hours on end? Theoretically yes, but dermatologists still advise that you reapply your sunscreen every two hours no matter how high the SPF is.
Another way of estimating SPF strength is by percentage. SPF15 blocks about 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF30 about 97 percent, and SPF50 keeps out around 98 percent. There’s no sunscreen yet that can filter out 100 percent.
While the radiation protection only increases a little the higher the SPF goes up, it’s still better to go for the strong stuff. This is because most people don’t actually use the recommended amount of sunscreen (FYI, it should be about a peso-sized dollop for the face alone, and a shot glass’ worth or more for your body). At least with stronger SPF sunscreen, you still get a good amount of coverage even when you’re underapplying—you know you're guilty, fam.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow when choosing your sunscreen for the day: opt for SPF15 to SPF30 for everyday use when you mostly stay indoors; for guys who spend an extended amount of time outside, go for SPF 50 or higher for adequate protection.
Protection Grade of UVA
Now, if you noticed, SPF is only for UVB. Your sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVA damage is marked by another thing entirely, and it’s something most people don’t pay as much attention to: PA, or Protection Grade of UVA.
PA is a rating used mostly in Asia and it’s based on persistent pigment darkening. The number of plus signs (+) indicates how well it works; P+ only offers low to moderate protection, so always aim for sunscreen rated P++ or higher.
Choosing your sunscreen
With summer coming up, it’s especially important to get into the habit of sunscreen application—liberal application. Filipinos, in general, don’t burn easily under the sun, but as mentioned, red, flaky, and tight-feeling skin isn’t the only way you can suffer from sun damage. For best results, choose broad-spectrum sunscreen, which offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Dudes who naturally have dry skin should actively go for moisturizing sunscreen instead of relying on the SPF rating of your aftershave lotion. On the other side of the spectrum, men prone to oily skin should go for lightweight sunscreens with mattifying formulas. Those who are allergy or acne-prone should avoid products with preservatives or fragrances in their ingredients lists. While those who stay very active should always keep an eye out for water-resistant sunscreens that’ll stay on no matter how much they sweat.
If you’re still having trouble picking your sunscreen, here are a few relatively budget-friendly ones to get you started:
Beach Hut Max SPF100++ Sunblock
Get it for: P584/100mL
Vaseline® Healthy White SPF30 PA++ Serum
Get it for: P249/180mL
NIVEA Sun Protect and Moisture Face Cream SPF50
Get it for: P367/50mL
NEUTROGENA® ULTRA SHEER® Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF50
Get it for: P535.50/88mL
Celeteque DermoScience Sun Care Face and Body Sun Defense Spray SPF 50
Get it for: P449/100mL