Before anything else, let me be clear, I’m only talking about sun protection on an everyday regimen here. When I go to the beach, I don’t scrimp on quantity and frequency of application.
I want to justify my ‘disobedience’ by saying that my morning commute is a mere 10 to 15 minutes, I stay indoors all day, and I go home after sunset. I am aware that fluorescent light has UV rays but it’s not like I will get sunburn by getting artificial light exposure.
One-third teaspoon of sunblock is something I just can’t commit to right now. Note: On Dr. Bailey’s skin care blog, 1/3 teaspoon is recommended, but several articles say a quarter teaspoon is enough.
I want to be able to go out with just sunblock on and not look like a mime. I could remediate the mime look by masking the mask with face powder or foundation but that’s too much trouble and I don’t wear base makeup every day.
So, what constitutes my sun protection strategy?
I use a zinc-oxide and/ or titanium oxide-based sunblock everyday. I apply it only once, in the morning, at a quantity as much as my skin can absorb — I stop at that sweet spot right before my face looks like it’s been slapped by toothpaste. If I am going to wear makeup I will put less.
When my skin is parched, I will put even less or none and put on a good moisturizer instead. My face can only handle so much goop and I believe that moisture trumps sun protection every time.
I had an interesting observation a few years back. I noticed that when my skin is well-moisturized I don’t get post-acne hyperpigmentation.
So I googled on how the skin behaves when it is well-moisturized. My readings can be summarized as follows:
“The skin has better defense system when it is not dehydrated.”
Maybe that’s the reason why I don’t get post-acne dark spots and why dry-skinned people are said to be more likely to get pre-mature wrinkles and sun-induced photoaging.
Incidentally, I stumbled upon this blog post a few years ago by a cosmetic chemist using a day moisturizer with only SPF 4. There’s a line there that goes:
“I was intrigued to read a posting on the Money Saving Expert website where a woman stayed out in the sun but only got burned on the parts of her body where she hadn’t used her moisturiser!”
That made me even more stubborn with how I choose to protect my skin against the sun: moisture first, sun protection second.
Anyway, going back to when I said I prefer using something that has zinc oxide and/ or titanium dioxide. Those two are physical blockers i.e., they reflect UV rays. All other sun protection ingredients are non-physical and they absorb UV rays (the latter is called chemical sunscreen, which I thought was a little funny because physical blockers are chemicals too).
I prefer physical sunblock because I don’t want to re-apply during the day. I am already at my quota for the number of face things to do in a day: (1) oil blotting; and (2) re-applying lipstick. My brain can’t process any more than that.
Physical blockers don’t disintegrate upon sun exposure — or so I’ve read. This means, unless it is brushed off, it’s there. My argument on not re-applying is, maybe if I’m not too malikot, the sunblock will stay the whole day.
I usually buy sunblock with at least SPF 30 and 3 plus-es. I could go lower with the SPF number but the +’s that come after the SPF-rating (e.g., SPF30+++) is non-negotiable. The plus indicate the level of sun protection it gives against UVA rays.
UVA = UV rays that cause photo-Aging
UVB = UV rays that cause sunBurn
The mnemonic above is likely to be an over-simplification but I will leave the elaboration to scientists and your googling skills.
My sun care routine may not be ideal for you because my risk appetite has always been high and re-application is out of the equation for me. But overall I think it my routine is adequate.
Disclaimer: I have brown skin, and I don’t burn quickly. If you’re pale, something else might work for you. But I hope you don’t stress yourself too much about it. The stress might age, or worse, kill you more than sun damage will.
I listed below the skin care routine of some of my favorite blogs. You’ll notice how different they all are:
- What I’m Looking For in A Sunscreen by Christine of 15 Minute Beauty. Christine is a mommy and a doctor.
- Sunscreens – Why You Should Use Them Daily by Colin’s Beauty Pages. Mr. Colin is a cosmetic chemist.
- How to Apply Sunscreen Like a Pale Lifeguard by Lela of xoVain