Why you should choose a moisturiser without sunscreen (and other things you didn’t know about sunscreen!)
It’s an uncomfortable fact, but Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. The sun is one of the most formidable carcinogens on the planet, so there’s no doubt that sunscreen is a vital part of daily life Down Under, but the question begs: what SPF formulation is best? Should you apply sunscreen before, after or with moisturiser? And how do you know if you’re applying it right? We answer all your burning questions!
Why bother with sunscreen if you’re not actually spending much of your day outdoors?
The thing is, the sun is a bit deceiving – it’s not the heat that burns the skin (that’s the infrared radiation), it’s UV that’s the main problem. That means the risk factor for skin damage is not how hot it is, but how light it is, which is why you can burn on a cool, cloudy day or even inside your home, car or office if you’re at a window. Even if you don’t burn, any exposure to light can trigger the formation of skin pigmentation and premature lines, so you’ll need protection if you want to help prevent wrinkles and age spots.
Sun smart: use sunscreen on its own
It might be convenient, but there’s a good reason you should use sunscreen separately to a moisturiser: neither can work as effectively when combined. A UK study found that people miss more of their face when applying a moisturiser with SPF than if they apply sunscreen alone.
Experts also say that adding sunscreen to a moisturiser not only potentially dilutes the SPF, it also interferes with a moisturiser’s function. Moisturiser is designed to be absorbed into the skin to effectively hydrate the deeper layers, while sunscreen should sit on the skin and act as a defence between your face and the sun.
Applying them separately means they can both do their intended job as they should, without getting in each other’s way.
So when should I apply sunscreen?
After moisturising, and before applying makeup. Let your moisturiser deliver nourishing ingredients to the deeper layers of the skin first, then apply sunscreen to form a protective film on top of the skin
Is a higher SPF better?
SPF 50+ gives you a 98% filter, while SPF 30+ gives you a 96.7% filter, so the difference is minimal. What is important though is to choose a broad-spectrum formulation because it protects against both UVA (which causes premature ageing) and UVB (which burns the skin). No matter the SPF factor, you will need to reapply at some point during the day to be properly protected.
How much is enough sunscreen?
To be adequately protected before you walk out the door, aim for 2 teaspoons for the face and the same for each limb.
I have sensitive skin – what kind of SPF should I choose?
A physical sunblock that reflects the light is best (as opposed to a chemical sunblock that contains synthetic ingredients that absorb, not reflect, light).
Physical sunblock ingredients like titanium oxide and zinc oxide are inert, so they don’t interact with the skin’s immune system and therefore are unlikely to cause any irritation or allergic skin reactions. The downside of physical sunblock is usually the texture, as it tends to feel heavier and look a little white on the skin.
Sunscreen gives me acne. What can I do about this?
Double cleanse and exfoliate! It’s often not the sunscreen per se that’s causing breakout, it’s more likely the excess build-up of dead skin cells and sebum from not removing sunscreen at the end of the day that’s causing the pesky spots. A good cleanse-and-polish routine before bed will do wonders to help your skin stay healthy.
I’ve heard about nano particles in sunscreen. What are they?
It basically means the sunscreen particles have been crushed to a nano (super tiny) size to prevent the sunblock from having a strong whitening effect on the skin. The Cancer Council currently advises there isn’t any evidence that shows that nanoparticles pose a health risk, but if you’re at all concerned, choose a zinc-based sunscreen because, unlike titanium, zinc is an essential nutrient that isn’t foreign to our body.
What else should I know?
One common synthetic broad-spectrum ingredient that is potentially concerning is oxybenzone (you might also see it listed as BP-3 or benzophenone-3), because some studies have found that it can act as a hormone disruptor. Check your sunscreen label carefully if you prefer to avoid it!