We can run but we can’t hide. Whether boutique-hopping with designer shades on, popping in for a tea party on a friend’s new yacht or zipping about town in the car with windows up, the sun inevitably catches up with us. And with global warming leading to dryer and hotter climates, it is especially crucial that we play the protection game with more prudence.
UV radiation from the sun comprises UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC, which has the shortest wavelength and therefore less able to penetrate the skin, is filtered out by the ozone, water vapour, oxygen and carbon dioxide. UVB, which has medium wavelength and mostly absorbed by the atmosphere, can hurt the surface layers of skin by causing tanning and sunburn.
UVA, with the longest wavelength, penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere and the deeper layers of skin. By weakening the elastin in skin, it causes skin to become more vulnerable to stretching and bruising, hence slowing repair and renewal. UVA contributes to problems related to photo-ageing such as pigmentation, enlarged pores, acne, wrinkles and sagging. Both UVA and UVB increase the risk of skin cancer, aka the seventh most common cancer among women in Singapore.
So it pays to get a good sunscreen. Use it every day and even indoors (if you are exposed to sunlight, which penetrates the windows at the office), advises Dr Vanessa Phua, a physician at Asia HealthPartners.
A sunscreen is only as good as its ingredients — and how well they suit your skin type. “Check that yours contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, both of which are known as physical blockers,” says Dr Phua. These work like a mirror, that is, by deflecting UV light away from skin, hence are not absorbed by the skin. Physical sunscreens are generally better for sensitive skin type.
One of the newest sunscreens in town is Dior Prestige White Light-In-Nectar, a serum that draws on the duo of Rose de Granville and White Rose to brighten and regenerate. These properties are harnessed through transluminsence, a process that targets the presence of melanin, lipofuscin and glycated proteins, all of which accelerate pigmentation, to unveil skin’s innate radiance.
On the other end of the spectrum are chemical sunscreens, which work by absorbing the UV rays and transforming them into heat, then dispersing it from skin. Unlike physical sunscreens that tend to be heavier, they are lighter and go on more easily. Ingredients are, however, absorbed by the skin too. Look out for tinosorb, which research says protects against both UVA and UVB. Others are made with a Helioplex technology to prolong protection for up to five hours.
Extended wear is also promised by Shiseido BB For Sports SPF 50+, which doubles as makeup. Its water-resistant formula is powered by WetForce and SuperVeil-UV 360 technologies that prevent the sun’s rays from penetrating your skin while boosting protection even when you perspire.
Those with sensitive skin type can go for hypoallergenic or low-irritant sunscreens, says Chaven Lee, senior trainer, Sulwhasoo Singapore. “Try out different sunscreen samples before deciding on one to use regularly. If you experience rashes, you might have a sunscreen allergy. Consult your dermatologist if necessary,” she explains.
“If your skin is dry, a sunscreen with a moisturising cream base may be more suitable. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, choose one in a lighter spray or gel base.”
SPF, short for Sun Protection Factor, gives you an idea of how well it protects against UV exposure. More specifically, it shows the percentage of UV rays that a sunscreen shields against. Say your skin burns after 10 minutes in the sun, so using an SPF 30 sunscreen protects against burning for about 300 minutes (therefore a factor of 30 times). This, however, also depends on skin type and intensity of sunlight.
Don’t grab any sunscreen that promises an SPF of more than 50. Its increase in UVB protection is said to be negligible so your skin is still likely to be prone to damage from sunburn. Instead, check that it offers “broad spectrum” coverage, which includes both UVA and UVB. Dr Lee Mun Heng, founder of Cambridge Medical Group, warns against putting your faith into the SPF: “It is simply a rating so no amount of SPF can completely protect you.”
For now, consider Sisley Phyto-Blanc Brightening Daily Defense Fluid SPF 50 PA++++. Titanium oxide aside, it also has buckwheat seed extract and Ascorbic Acid 2-Glucoside to strengthen skin’s barrier function and defence against free radicals.
Amid the hustle and bustle, even the most conscientious must stay mindful. Concentrate sunscreen more on the cheeks, says Lee, as the area protrudes most hence the most likely to be exposed to the sun. Don’t forget bits like the hairlines, side of the face, corner of the nose, and the neck.
Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening UV Protector, addresses melanin production and collagen synthesis slowdown with skin brighteners, namely White Ginseng Saponin and Enriched White Ginseng Polysaccharides, for a youthful glowing complexion. Part of the eighth generation of the Korean skincare brand’s Snowise range, it has also been upgraded with proprietary Stabilizing Capsulation and Thermal Optimization technologies for better results.
You wouldn’t use a body moisturiser for your face, so the same extends to sunscreen. This is because skin on the face is more delicate. When applying on the body, make sure that you use about two tablespoons worth of sunscreen, and slather it on, according to Dr Lee, “any part exposed to UV”. So pay attention to toes, feet, underarms, inner upper arms, back of the neck and ears.
Part of La Mer’s Soleil de la Mer Collection is The Reparative Body Lotion SPF 30, which is led by the signature Miracle Broth to help energise skin and boost renewal. A Golden Algae Ferment also seeks to repair signs of ageing caused by time under the sun.
Finally, if basking in the outdoors has left you looking a tad burnt-out, control the damage with The History of Whoo Gongjinhyang: Seol Radiant White Ampoule Mask, for a box of eight sheets. Each hypoallergenic bio-cellulose mask is enriched with imperial herbal formulas such as Chilhyangpalbaeksan, which blends together 17 oriental herbs to supposedly inhibit melanin formation.