For a sunscreen to be effective, it’s got to be made of the right stuff. Here’s what to look out for.
They should protect from pollution too
UV rays are detrimental to our skin health, but airborne impurities can be just as bad. The air in Metropolitan cities often have free radicals, fine particles and pollutants that settle on the face, irritate skin and increase the production of toxins in cells. This weakens and ages skin, causing the complexion to appear grey, dull and lacking vitality. More and more beauty brands, Dior for example, are releasing sun protection that have anti-pollution properties to prevent the build-up of toxins and act like a topcoat on your face to prevent pollution from coming into contact with skin.
PA++++ is a plus (if not a must)
The PA level on a sunscreen measures the UVA protection it provides. UVA rays have the ability to penetrate deeper to affect the dermis (the second layer of your skin) and is one of the main causes premature ageing, resulting in the formation of wrinkles, dryness and pigmentation.
In 1996, the Japanese Cosmetic Industry Association (JCIA) introduced a three-tiered PA grading to measure UVA protection. UVA protection is measured with the Japanese developed Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) method. To get a protection grade of PA+, sunscreens need to provide a PPD protection factor of two to four. For a protection grade of PA++, a PPD of four to eight is needed; while a protection factor of eight to 16 is required for PA+++.
However, the JCIA has modified their PA system to accommodate the higher UVA protection that sunscreens now provide. Dr Goh Boon Kee, consultant dermatologist and medical director of Skin Physicians at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, shares: “The JCIA revised the PA system to a four-tier grading system after adopting a new in-vivo UVA testing method in 2012 to include PA++++. This provides a PPD protection factor of 16 and above.”
Many beauty giants like Kose, YSL Beaute and Clarins have all adopted this in their sunscreens.
You should be able to get them wet
Previously, sunscreens tend to become less effective when they come into contact with water. However, today many come with water-resistant formulas that stay on even when you get wet, which is especially important in hot and humid Singapore where perspiring or getting caught in the rain is extremely common.
But if you want something even stronger, check out Shiseido’s Wetforce range of sun protection. They are not only water resistant, but even becomes stronger when it gets wet. According to studies done by Shiseido, the SPF value – which protects skin from UVB rays that cause burning and tanning – of a non-waterproof sunscreen can drop by about 30 per cent when it comes into contact with water. Thanks to a new wetforce technology, the SPF value of Shiseido’s Perfect UV Protector actually increases by about 20 per cent.
The wetforce technology is able to absorb water and perspiration into its formula, making the sunscreen more dense, thus strengthening its water-repellent function.
They should also protect from long range UV rays
UVA rays penetrate more deeply into skin and according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, are 30 to 50 times more common than UVB radiation. These ultraviolet rays come in two wavelengths: long UVA rays and short UVA rays. While both can pass through clouds and glass to cause premature ageing, which can result in wrinkles, roughness, loss of elasticity or pigmentation, long range UVA rays reach further into skin and damage the deeper layer of the dermis.
“While the surface and upper layers of skin are equipped with defenses that may mitigate some aspects of photoageing, long UVA rays penetrate to the deepest part of the dermis,” says Dr Adam Geyer, consulting dermatologist to Kiehl’s. “By reaching the dermis, these rays are attacking collagen and elastin that are critical to providing skin with youthful support. Long UVA rays also disrupt the skin’s immune function and damage skin’s deeper vital structures, leading to skin that lacks firmness and elasticity, and may appear red and wrinkled.
While sun protection pretty much a must-do in any skincare regime, some people with sensitive skin still avoid it as they experience irritation that can result in redness and itchiness. This is because most sunscreens in the market today contain chemical filters, which protect skin by absorbing UV rays. The downside is that they occasionally cause irritation for sensitive or acne-prone skin. The good thing is that today, most sunscreens are created to be gentle even on very sensitive skin. However, if you’re still worried, La Roche-Posay is one of our go-to brands for extra gentle formulas.
A version of this article originally appeared on www.femalemag.com.sg.