Sunscreen 101: Everything You Need to Know About Your Sunscreen

by Claudia Christin on Jul 14, 2020

Looking for sunscreen is like looking for a soulmate. It has to be one you feel most comfortable to be yourself, compliment your personality, and also one you are willing to commit with. Sunscreen has to feel comfortable on your skin, complement your skin type, and has a favorable texture so that you’re willing to apply and reapply enough sunscreen whenever needed (which is every single day). Just like looking for a soulmate, it is not an easy task. The number of sunscreen options out there can be overwhelming. Sunscreen 101 Insert image 1 To get things started, let us first take the first step to find your sunscreen soulmate by getting to know and understand them better. We are here as your sunscreen match-maker and we are going to guide you on finding the perfect match for you!  

Understand the label on your sunscreen

This label on the front packaging of your sunscreen reflects the amount of protection that it provides for our skin. Sunscreen 101 Insert Image 2 
  1. 1) SPF 

• Stands for: Sun Protection Factor

• Measures: How long your skin can handle UV-rays before it burned compared to bare skin

• Reflects: Associated with the amount of protection to UVB (Remember that UVB is UV-Burn) since UVB is considered to be the biggest factor in causing a burn on the skin. 

• Range: The SPF label can range up to 50. Sunscreen with the protection of above 50 will be generalized and labeled as 50+ 

• For example: When you apply sunscreen with an SPF 30 on one side of your forearm and leave the other one bare without any sunscreen, while it takes only 10 minutes for your skin to get burned, it will take 30 times longer for your other forearm protected by the sunscreen to get burn, which is 10 minutes’ x 30 = 300 minutes (5 hours).

• How it is tested: A group of people (10 – 20 people) run the above comparison test between bare skin and protected skin. The average duration of protection on these groups of people represents the SPF for sunscreen. 


2) PA

• Stands for: Protection grade of UVA 

• Measures: How long your skin can handle UV-rays before it turned brown compared to bare skinReflects The amount of protection to UVA. PA is used in Japanese or Korean sunscreen to measure how long your skin turned brown compared to bare skin. PA is considered a simplified version of the PPD (persistent pigment darkening) measurement used in Europe. 

• Range: from one plus (+) up to four plus (++++)

✓ One plus (+) = 2 – 4 PPD ✓ Two plus (++) = 4 – 8 PPD✓ Three plus (+++) = 8 – 16 PPD✓ Four plus (++++) = > 16 PPD

• For example: When you apply sunscreen with PA+++ on one arm and leave the other one unprotected. While it takes just 10 minutes for the unprotected arm to turn tanned (brown), it may take 16 times or longer (more than 160 minutes) time for the protected arm to turn brown compared to the former.   

• How it is tested: A group of people were tested and radiated with UVA and the above comparison test between bare skin and protected skin. The average duration of protection on these groups of people represents the PA.

  • Broad-spectrum

This is a label that is commonly found in US sunscreen. This reflects the qualitative protection of the sunscreen from UVA and UVB.  

Different Types of Sunscreen

sunscreen 101 insert image 3

1. Mineral sunscreen (Physical sunscreen)

Also commonly known as a physical sunscreen. This contains mineral UV filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These two mineral filters are known for their broad-spectrum protection to both UVA and UVB. They are less likely to cause irritation on your skin and leave more of a matte finish. One of their major downfalls is that they may not have the most elegant texture and tend to leave some white cast. However, it seems like, with the advancement of formulation, the texture of mineral sunscreen is getting better and leaves less whitecast compared to conventional sunscreen. Most of them tend to leave a “tone-up” effect rather than a white pasty film on top of your skin. 

2. Organic sunscreen (Chemical sunscreen)

The so-called chemical sunscreen. It involved all carbon-containing compounds UV filter. Some of the most commonly used organic filters are: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and the list goes on.  Expect to see more and more chemical filters in the near future for a better sunscreen experience. The good thing about organic sunscreen is that it has an elegant texture. It spreads and feels like a moisturizer while at the same time also leaves zero whitecast. Their dewy and moisturizing finish make them a great primer-like product before your makeup. The downside of chemical sunscreen is their higher chance to cause irritation for sensitive skin and some of the UV filters have limited range of protection, therefore chemical sunscreen usually uses a combination of filters to give the most protection. 

Hybrid sunscreen

Some sunscreen also incorporates both inorganic and organic filters into their sunscreen, called hybrid. Most of the time this is done to minimize the drawback while maximizing each of their potentials. There is not much of a character that can be drawn from this since it is very dependent on the concentration of each of the filters in the formulation. 

What makes a good sunscreen?

  • SPF of at least 30 and broad-spectrum protection

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. However, since sunscreen wears off due to sweating and also sebum production throughout the day, it is always better to aim for the highest amount of protection. The next thing that you should note is that they should be labeled as broad-spectrum or with their PA level to ensure UVA and UVB protection 
  • Texture and finish that feels comfortable on your skin

There are a lot of options for sunscreen out there with different textures and finish. It is important to find one that your skin feels comfortable in. While drier skin type may appreciate a creamier and occlusive sunscreen to lock in that extra moisture, oily skin may prefer a light gel-cream texture that doesn’t feel suffocating on the skin. Find the one with texture and finish that your skin is most comfortable in so that you can apply enough sunscreen every single day and don’t feel pressured to reapply in the middle of the day when needed. Now, that you get to know the meaning and characteristic behind each sunscreen, the ideal type of sunscreen, we hope it makes it easier for you to find your sunscreen-soulmate. Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen every day!

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