Peace sign with sunscreen on them showing how much sunscreen you need
Skin Health

Sunscreen Essentials: Your Skin’s Best Defense Against the Sun

There continues to be uncertainty about the use of sunscreens on all skin. Let’s clear that up immediately. If you have skin, you need sunscreen. The sun is not particular about the colour, texture, look, or vibe of your skin. We’re diving into some juicy and heavy-hitting discussion about this very controversial topic. So let’s get into it. 

Why You Need to Wear Sunscreen

“Used regularly, sunscreen helps prevent sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging” Dr. Anna Lien-Lun Chein, Hopkins Medicine

Sunscreen is important for overall skin health to protect your skin from cancer and premature aging. That’s as simple as it needs to be just to start using sunscreen daily. The benefits of sun protection will always outweigh the risks of sun exposure. Read that one again. 

The recommended amount of sunscreen for face, neck + ears. I use 3 finger lengths worth.

The dangerous effects of the sun’s rays and how they can mutate your DNA are very well known and can no longer be denied. The sun has 3 rays, for this blog post we will focus on the primary two; 

  • UVA (aging)
  •  UVB (burning). 

Some hallmarks of cancer and prematurely aging skin are;

  • Reduced collagen, the protein that supports your skin ? more + deeper set wrinkles
  • Sagging skin
  • Sunspots
  • Dry skin
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma – the most common form of skin cancer
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – the second most common type of skin cancer
  • Melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer

Sunscreen is the one thing, along with sun protective clothing that can drastically reduce your chances of getting cancer.

“Controlled studies have shown that regular use of an SPF 15 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen reduces your chances of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent, melanoma by 50 percent and premature skin aging by 24 percent.” Skin Cancer Foundation, Oct 24, 2023

What Sunscreen Should I Use

The sunscreen you should use is whichever one you will use daily. There are a few non-negotiables to look out for when choosing sunscreen and once those requirements have been met, choose a sunscreen that feels good on your skin and is easy to apply. The non-negotiables are;

  • Must be SPF 30 or higher (SPF = Sun Protection Factor)
  • Must be a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects you against UVA + UVB)

How Do I Choose The Right Sunscreen for My Skin?

Being a melanated dry, sensitive skin girlie, I have additional sunscreen requirements as should you based on your skin type. I look for sunscreens that are hydrating. I’m looking for ingredients like; 

  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Glycerin
  • Ceramides  

I avoid sunscreens with a high alcohol content or alcohol is listed as one of the first few ingredients on the ingredient list. 

If you have oily, acne-prone skin, look for lightweight sunscreens, oil-free listed on the bottle, and mattifying. Look for ingredients like; 

  • Silica – Absorbs excess oil and helps to mattify the skin giving you a nice, non-greasy finish
  • Niacinamide – Helps to regulate oil production and improve the appearance of pores. This is an amazing ingredient for all skin types.
There are ways to reapply your sunscreen when you have a full face of makeup. Consider SPF sprays + powders.

For those with sensitive skin, using physical rather than chemical sunscreens might be beneficial. More on this in the next section. But, quickly, physical sunscreens use zinc and titanium dioxide to reflect the sun. They may not cause skin irritations. They have fewer ingredients but also tend to leave a white cast. Hybrid sunscreens are a great way to go as well. 

For combination skin, consider using 2 different types of sunscreens on your face. One that is best suited for oily skin types on the oily parts of your face and another sunscreen that best suits the dry skin on your cheeks (if that is the dry part). Or a hybrid sunscreen my be the one for you. 

As always, patch test new sunscreens before applying it to your face. Any burning, stinging or tingling is not normal. Click over to this article on How To Build a Simple Skincare Routine for more on this and when to apply your sunscreen.

What is the Difference Between Physical + Chemical Sunscreen

Can I be honest? I prefer chemical sunscreens. But, I love the science behind physical sunscreens. Let me explain. Chemical sunscreens blends into the skin so much better than physical sunscreens and as a melanin rich girlie I love that for me! On the either hand, as a melanin-rich woman, hyperpigmentation is an absolute thorn in my side and I need physical sunscreens. Keep reading below and I’ll wrap all that up in a little bow with the sweet spot!

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat, which is then released from the skin. This is an effective way to protect the skin from sun damage. The part my hyperpigmentation prone skin does not like, is converting the sun’s rays into heat for it to be released. Any form of heat on the skin is no good for me but I love the heat so we’re forever at this crossroad.

Image: Pinterest

I still use chemical sunscreens because it does the job very well and I refuse to walk around looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost. You also have to give chemical sunscreens about 15 minutes after application to settle on the skin before heading out in the sun. 

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreens, aka, mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect the sun’s rays. They work immediately on application and are very effective at protecting the skin. Physical sunscreens are also thicker. As mentioned above, they tend to leave a white cast but may cause less skin irritations. 

Hybrid Sunscreen

Now this is where the sweet spot lies! Hybrid sunscreens combine the best of both worlds. They often have zinc, iron, and/or titanium oxide. These make the chemical sunscreen’s formula more fluid and easier to apply. They also don’t have the ghastly white cast. Due to this elevated formulation, they are often suitable for most skin types. You will have to shop around for the one that works best for you. They are so easy to use and some can double as makeup primers. 

Sunscreen and Vitamin D

If there was ever an argument against wearing sunscreen, it would be this one right here. Does wearing sunscreen block vitamin D absorption? In a simple answer, yes it does. Are there other ways to get vitamin D into your body, yes there is. Here are the facts;

  • UVB is the wavelength your body needs to convert vitamin D to D3 for your body to absorb and use
  • UVB is also the same wavelength that causes cellular mutation that has been proven to lead to skin and other forms of cancers
  • We don’t know how much vitamin D you actually get from sun exposure. This is not measurable. This article states that 10 – 15 min should do the trick but how do you even measure that.

These facts create a unique problem. We need vitamin D for our bone and immune health. But, we need to wear sunscreen to prevent deadly sun damage to our skin. Let’s work through this dilemma below.

Can I Still Get Enough Vitamin D if I Wear Sunscreen Every Day?

My mother always says you can’t give up what you are certain of for something you are uncertain of. She says it with a thick Jamaican accent of course but it applies here. This phrase means, don’t ignore the facts.

You can maintain healthy vitamin D levels safely and measurably. You do this with a balanced diet rich in vitamin D foods and vitamin D supplements. According to the National Institute of Health Offices and Dietary Supplementations, a daily supplementation of 15 mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D is enough with a balanced diet. Some examples of foods rich in vitamin D are;

  • Fatty Fish (salmon, tuna)
  • Mushrooms exposed to UV light
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods (cereals, juice)

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies worldwide. There are numerous factors to consider when determining if you’re getting enough vitamin D in your diet. Get more information on vitamin D here.

Sunscreen Recommendations 2024!

I will cover more sunscreen recommendations in my next blog post. But, for now, I will gush about a few of my sunscreens that I currently have in rotation. Let me know below if you have tried any these and which sunscreen are you using now?! Comment below.

Sold @Sephora online + in store

Sephora Daily Sunscreen Cream – SPF 30 – Hybrid Sunscreen

  • 15.5% Zinc Oxide
  • Very hydrating, dewy finish on the skin
  • NO white cast
  • Applies like a dream
  • Very fluid formula

Shop Here!

Vichy Capital Soliel SPF 60

  • Love the dry touch formula
  • Instantly melts into my skin
  • NO white cast
  • 200 ml bottle
  • Can be used on the face and body
  • No sticky, greasy finish
  • Click here to purchase on Amazon

Black Girl Sunscreen Kids SPF 50

  • Smooth, fluid formula
  • I use this on myself + my children
  • Very hydrating + water resistant
  • Fragrance free
  • Moisturizes as well as protects the skin

*General rule of thumb* You need 2 full fingers length (index and middle finger) worth of sunscreen for your face, ears and neck. You need a shot glass full of sunscreen for your body and reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours for proper sun protection.

Conclusion

In conclusion, go out and find yourself the sunscreen that works for you. The risk of skin cancer and premature aging isn’t worth it. The selection of sunscreens is vast. It can be overwhelming. But, with some trial and error, you are sure to find one for you.

Your best skin awaits! If you haven’t already, subscribe to the blog and feel free to comment below. 

It was lovely meeting you here. Until next time!

Shan,

Your Skin & Beauty Nurse

*This article contains affiliate links*

Just a nurse obsessed with skincare! By day, I'm a Public Health Nurse by night I'm a skincare obsessed mom of 3 littles, a wife and lover of all things coconut!

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