The terminology and general sunscreen jargon is super confusing. We've done some research (a lot) to help clarify what all these words mean, in the hope that it helps you make better suncare choices. Buckle up, here's the breakdown...
Stands for ultraviolet radiation, or UV rays. The ones we need to worry about are UVA and UVB, both affect your skin differently.
UVA = ageing
UVA rays reach your dermis and cause premature ageing effects such as wrinkles, pigmentation, uneven skin tone, skin sagging and sun spots. They're the primary ray responsible for tanning; so any sign of a tan is a sign of DNA damage. UVA rays are the main ray used in tanning machines. These rays are linked to skin cancer and penetrate clouds and glass. They're out when the suns out, 365 days a year.
UVB = burning
UVB rays reach your epidermis and damage your skins DNA. UVB rays are the main culprit behind sunburn and are strongly linked to cancer. The intensity for UVB varies by season, location and time of day. This is why you tend to burn more on a hot summers day.
Sun protection factor is a measure of how well the sunscreen protects the skin from sunburn. The numbers tell you how long it will take UVB rays to redden the skin without sunscreen versus using sunscreen correctly. For example, if using an SPF 30 it will theoretically take 30 times longer to start burning.
Broad spectrum means it contains properties that protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. The discovery that UVA rays were dangerous came long after UVB, so it's important to make sure that your sunscreen protects you against both.
The Ultraviolet Index is an international measure of the amount of UVB rays entering the earths surface at a particular place and time. The index tells you when the UV in your area is doing you harm, and when you need to be sun smart. The index ranges from 0 - 11+ and is determined by forecast information from the Bureau of Meteorology. A reading of 3 or above requires protection, above 8 requires additional protective measures. Your skin holds a grudge, and remembers all the UV exposure you ever get. This all adds up and increases your long term risk of skin cancer. If you want to stay sun savvy, download a free UV index app that you can check throughout the day to see current and max forecasted daily UV ratings.
Chemical vs Mineral:
Both are beneficial as they effectively protect your skin, it just comes down to your preference if you have one. The reason they differ is from their ingredients and how this changes the actual sunscreen.
The TGA is responsible for approving sunscreens as safe for sale in Australia, they approve both formulation styles. If you're fussy with sunscreen textures, you may prefer the feel of a chemical sunscreen. If you don't like the idea of sunscreen soaking into your skin, you may prefer to use a mineral sunscreen.
Vitamin D is formed primarily in the skin, and is needed to absorb calcium from food. Vitamin D is vital for strong bones, muscles and overall health. It takes approximately 5 minutes of sun exposure per day to maintain optimum vitamin D levels. UVB is the ray that helps the body make vitamin D. As an FYI, tanning beds use UVA rays - they will not contribute to your vitamin D levels.
Does everyone need sunscreen?
Yes. UVB rays change daily depending on the particular place and time, so your burning risk alters seasonally. UVA rays on the other hand are just as present in winter as they are in summer, and penetrate through clouds and glass. This is one of the primary reasons you need to SPF 365 days of the year. All skin tones need SPF daily even if you rarely burn, you're still soaking in UVA. No matter the SPF factor, you need to reapply every 2 hours. Be more vigilant between 10am-4pm when the UV index tends to be higher. You need at least a 1/4 teaspoon sunscreen for your face, and a shot glass worth for your body.
Unfortunately, your SPF factor won't compound. So if you're applying a SPF 30 sunscreen on your face, and then apply an SPF 15 foundation on top - this will not create an SPF of 45. You will just have the SPF factor of the highest dose applied correctly, in this case the SPF 30.
This is a controversial one and the term can be misleading. Sunscreens containing ingredients that are potentially harmful to our reefs is devastating. Cocoskyn proudly does not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are known offenders to damaging reef. There are a number of other chemicals present in sunscreens, skincare and makeup that haven't had as much research yet as oxybenzone and octinoxate. For now, we are oxybenzone and octinoxate free.
Snow and Sun:
Snow is highly reflective of UV radiation. Fresh snow reflects even more radiation than water. Even those cold cloudy days on the slopes won't save you from the suns rays!
The atmosphere is also thinner at higher altitude so it absorbs less UV radiation for us. Keep in mind your UV radiation intensity increases by roughly 10-12% per every 1000m increase in altitude.