Skin Health - SPF

What You Need to Know About Sunscreen

Let’s be honest about sunscreen use for a second. Being a black girl, one of the main reasons I did not use sunscreen religiously when I was younger is the fear of walking around looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost. For many people of colour, this is a problem and though this is a cosmetic reason, we all want to look presentable and decent when we leave our homes.

…I refuse to walk around looking like Casper the Friendly ghost.

When I started caring for my skin, I realized very early that sunscreen was a necessity in my basic skincare routine. There is no point in taking care of your skin, purchasing products for your skin to go out into the sun and get sun damage. More on establishing a solid skincare routine here.

Being out in the sun elicits feelings of absolute bliss. The warmth of the sun touches the soul. The vitamin D that the sun provides does so much for our bodies and minds. Going out and enjoying the sun with proper sun protection is encouraged. Prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays can cause;

  • Premature aging (wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots)
  • Skin Cancer (Melanoma)
  • Skin damage
  • Eye damage

Wearing protective clothing and sunglasses in addition to sunscreen adds to our safety while enjoying the sunshine.

Let’s Define SPF!

A diagram showing how the sun's UV rays penetrate the ozone layer and enter to the Earth's surface.
The Sun’s Rays – A Diagram; Photo from Sun Island Organics

The Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) recommends using sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. It’s important to note that this was increased from an SPF of 15 in 2008. This is not to say that you need sunscreen with an SPF of 100 for the best protection. Sunscreen with an SPF of 100 does not provide you with more sun protection, it’s a marketing scheme. Once the sunscreen is at an SPF of 50, a higher SPF is not necessary. When deciding on sunscreen, be sure that it provides broad-spectrum protection. A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects you from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. To be classified as broad spectrum, the sunscreen needs to absorb or reflect at least 90% of the sun’s rays. Look at this diagram to the right that shows exactly how sun rays travel to Earth.

Cancer Prevention

I think we have all been affected by this heinous disease cancer, in one form or another. Skin cancer is the multiplication of abnormal cells within the skin. Cancer is no respecter of person, age, social status, or the amount of melanin you have in your skin. The amount of melanin (how dark you are) you have in your skin does provide some degree of protection against the sun’s rays but rest assured, the sun is a powerful entity emitting dangerous rays. The melanin in your skin cannot stand alone against the sun’s powerful rays. How this affects my melanin brothers and sisters who live in more tropical climates year round, I am not sure.

Some people think that more constant exposure to the sun might produce increased tolerance to the sun’s rays. Unfortunately, this is a huge misconception that has led to an increase in late diagnosis of skin cancers and other skin diseases in darker-skinned individuals. A late diagnosis leads to a poor prognosis or outcome. I will reference an eloquently written article that elaborates more on black people and sunscreen use. Click the link and have a read.

The melanin in your skin cannot stand alone against the sun’s powerful rays.

Chemical vs Physical Sunscreen

Let’s discuss the reason for the Casper glow. Zinc and Titanium dioxide are the natural minerals in physical sunscreens that cause the white or grey cast on most skin types. Physical sunscreens create a nice barrier on the skin surface that reflects the sun’s rays essentially causing them to bounce off the skin. This is great, except that the product sits on top of the skin. The sunscreen is not absorbed and leaves that ghastly, dreaded cast. The second classification of sunscreen is the chemical sunscreen. These sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and must be applied at least fifteen minutes before going into the sun for them to effectively do their job. Chemical sunscreens contain chemicals such as:

  • Avobenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate
  • Oxybenzone.

These chemicals work by absorbing and breaking down the sun’s rays to protect your skin. This does create some heat in or on the skin as a chemical breakdown is happening but that is how this type of sunscreen works. See the diagram below.

Diagram showing how chemical and physical sunscreen protects the skin from the sun.
Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen, Photo from Pinterest

I have found that most people are put off by chemical sunscreens because they are absorbed into the skin. This blog piece is not here to push either chemical or physical sunscreens but to provide you with basic sun protection information so that you can decide which type of sun protection you want to use. Chemical or physical sunscreen, the choice is yours but something is better than nothing.

Chemical or physical sunscreen, the choice is yours but something is definitely better than nothing.

Sunscreen Product Review

Now that we have discussed the basics of sun protection, it’s time to discuss products. I am focussing on sunscreens that can be used on the face because I feel this is where most people including myself, run into problems. Depending on what sunscreen you use, you may have dealt with dry skin, oily skin, or sunscreens that may have triggered a breakout. Choosing a sunscreen that is right for your skin can be a series of trial and error. In my trial and error with sunscreen, I have come to one conclusion; physical sunscreens can be more drying to the skin when compared to chemical sunscreens. This makes sense since the chemical sunscreen is absorbed into the skin while the physical one sits atop the skin.

Choosing a sunscreen that is right for your skin can be a series of trial and error.

Green squeeze bottle sitting upright on a ledge with a lattice backdrop, very bright and sunny.
Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen; Personal Photo

With my chronically dry skin, I lean towards chemical sunscreen for this reason. My skin loves the Origins A Perfect World SPF 40 moisturizer with white tea. It retails for $59 for a 50 ml jar at Sephora and goes onto the skin like velvet! The Origins sunscreen is creamy in consistency and has a mild sweet smell. The Origins sunscreen is broad spectrum and does not leave any residue, so no white or grey cast. I apply Juice Beauty’s SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen after for added protection.

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen is a broad-spectrum physical sunscreen with 20% zinc oxide as the main ingredient. I find this sunscreen not as drying as some of the other physical sunscreens I’ve tried. It is formulated with jojoba oil, antioxidants, and vitamins. It retails for $25 at Sephora for the 89 ml tube. This sunscreen goes on with a white cast but once rubbed into the skin, the white cast goes away. This sunscreen can also be used on your entire body and is safe for children’s skin.

Juice Beauty Oil free SPF 30 Moisturizer on a white table  with a few green leaves to the left of the standing bottle.
Juice Beauty Oil Free SPF 30 Moisturizer

For someone with more oily, even combo and acne-prone skin, I would suggest the Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil Free Moisturizer. This sunscreen is another physical sunscreen from Juice Beauty that contains natural zinc oxide. This sunscreen retails at Sephora for $39 and has a refreshing citrus smell. It is formulated with soothing aloe vera and vegetable hyaluronic acid that helps retain moisture. I will note that this sunscreen left a white cast on my skin that required considerable rubbing to get rid of.

Sunscreen Product Suggestions

I cannot talk about sunscreens and not mention a company that I recently stumbled upon via Instagram; Black Girl Sun Screen (BGS). BSG was birthed out of the Casper the ghost frustrations that most people of colour have when trying to find a sunscreen that is safe and effective. BSG does not use any parabens or harmful chemicals in its products, is classified as broad-spectrum sunscreens, and has now expanded to include a kid’s line. I have been reading reviews on their products and plan on ordering from this company. Learn more about this amazing company by visiting its website here.

Another brand of sunscreen that I would like to try is Supergoop! Fun name right? Supergoop is a clean product, paraben-free, and against animal cruelty. Their products are reported to not leave the white cast and are safe.

Reapplying Sunscreen

You require one ounce or a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen for your entire body to be protected. Dermatology associations recommend reapplying sunscreen throughout the day as a precaution. They assume that enough sunscreen may not have been applied initially so topping it up every few hours is not a bad idea. Of course, reapply your sunscreen after vigorous sweating and going in the water.

You require one ounce or a shot glass sized amount of sunscreen for your entire body to be protected.

Cools SPF 30 Setting Spray on a white duvet with Ikea green plants
Coola SPF 30 Setting Spray; Personal Photo

Tip: As mentioned above, sunscreen can be drying for those with dry skin. I suggest applying your regular moisturizer to the skin before reapplying sunscreen. When out and about, I will normally have either a full face of makeup or minimal makeup on. Reapplying sunscreen is not something I did because my makeup would be a complete mess. Enter Coola Makeup Setting Spray with SPF 30. I was so excited to purchase this product because it solved my huge problem of sunscreen reapplication on my face. The Coola setting spray comes in the most beautiful packaging. The lightweight sunscreen spray mist product is housed in a sleek glass bottle with a smell that reminds me of everything lovely on a day at the beach.

Another company that does an SPF setting spray is Supergoop. I have yet to try their product but as mentioned above, I have heard great reviews about them and I am excited to try their product.

Final Thoughts

I hope this piece on sun protection has given you some much-needed basic information and you are leaving with more knowledge on sun protection. I will mention a website that I have used to verify safety and ingredients in sunscreens; the EWG. Click on this link to browse sunscreen tips, and check out ratings for products from a solid nonprofit research-based organization.

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Peace & Love!

Your Skin Nurse,


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!

10 Comments on “What You Need to Know About Sunscreen

  1. I love tanning however I have developed sun spots on my shoulders as my skin easily burns. I have suscribed to FabFitFun and I will be receiving the Coola sunscreen (full bottle size) and can’t wait to use it. I have been taking care of my skin as of late and appreciate this article!

  2. Great topic. I found A Perfect World at Shoppers same price. Which is helpful because I can use my points. Great article.

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