10 important points on how to choose and use sunscreens

how to choose and use sunscreens

These and other related questions are widely asked by readers so we through to answer them here

UVB and UVA rays – what is the difference?

Despite the fact that there are 3 types of sun rays, there are only two health risks – UVB and UVA rays. UV rays do not reach the skin, because are destroyed even in the ozone layer.

UVB rays (UVB) – short sun rays that immediately act very aggressively. May cause redness, sunburn, and sun allergies.

UVA rays (type A, UVA) are longer, reach deeper layers of the skin. Their effect on the skin may not be immediately noticeable. But UVA rays are even more dangerous, because with prolonged exposure over time, they can lead to photoaging of the skin, a violation of its protective functions, the appearance of age spots or even a greater likelihood of developing malignant tumors on the skin.

Both UVA and UVB rays act most aggressively at 12.00-13.00. Therefore, at this time, you need to be especially careful about protecting the skin.

What do all these symbols and abbreviations on the packaging mean?

There are three common options for designating UVA protection:


If you saw such a symbol on the label, it means the product was created in compliance with the requirements of the European Union for type A UV protection, and this is an excellent feature for sunscreen. 

RA +

This symbol indicates that the sunscreen has been tested according to the Japanese system. The icon indicates that tests were carried out on living tissue for the degree of protection against UVA exposure.


The number of stars on this symbol can vary from 2 to 5. The rating system is common in the UK.

The inscription on the label “wide range of protection” means that the cream will protect against UVB and UVA rays.

PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening) is a method by which the effects of UVA radiation are studied after 2-24 hours. This is exactly the technique that is used in the Japanese RA + system. PPD shows how many times the dose of UVA absorbed by the skin has decreased. For example, PPD 10 means that 10 times less UVA radiation energy penetrates the skin. These creams do not fundamentally differ from ordinary ones, they are simply additionally tested and more expensive.

SPF – this abbreviation recalls that it is relatively safe to stay in the open sun without any protection for no more than 10 minutes. The number indicated next to the abbreviation SPF indicates how many times for 10 minutes you can be in the sun using this cream. A cream with SPF-30 will protect you for 300 minutes, and a cream with SPF 50 will protect you for 500 minutes. However, keep in mind that while you bathe, roll over, sweat, the protective layer will wear off. Refresh the cream every two hours.

How to determine the phototype of your skin?

There are 6 skin phototypes:

  • Phototype 1 – the state of “red boiled cancer” after 10 minutes in the intense sun. Usually this skin is fair, often with freckles. The hair is often blond or red, however, brown hairs are also found. It is contraindicated for such people to sunbathe – it just won’t work out – that’s why they are recommended SPF 50.
  • Phototype 2 – Hypersensitivity to the bright sun. Usually fair hair and skin, eyes gray or brown. The most suitable protection factor is 20 to 30 units.
  • Phototype 3 – the hair is quite dark, mostly brown, eyes are brown or brownish-green, and the skin in winter has a light tan shade. Such people at the beginning of the vacation have enough money with an index of 15-20.
  • Phototypes 4-6 – people have initially dark skin and practically do not burn in the sun. Minimal protection is enough for them.

What else do you need to know before choosing a good sunscreen?

In children, adolescents and the elderly, melanin production occurs rather slowly. Therefore, they should choose creams and lotions with a high protection factor.

You also need to start sunbathing under the protection of products with an SPF index of at least 50, and when the skin is already used to the sun, you can use less powerful products, but with an SPF of at least 15-30.

If you have sensitive skin, or you buy cream for an infant, choose a product with so-called physical filters.

Sunscreens in cosmetics are divided into physical and chemical. Physical (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) act on the principle of small lenses: reflect the incident ultraviolet. Such drugs do not cause allergies.
Chemical filters act on a different principle – they absorb ultraviolet light. Such foods can cause allergies. Before buying a cosmetic product, test it on a small area of ​​the skin in order to understand whether this product is suitable for you or not.

Does it make sense to buy a separate sunscreen for the face?

Face creams contain additional active ingredients that provide protection against aging and other additional properties, for example, reflective pigments that give shine to the skin of the face.

For the face it is recommended to use products with a very high SPF: at least 30, and preferably 50. This will provide the most reliable protection for thin skin. At the same time, you can completely dispense with body cream if it has a high SPF factor and has protection against UVA rays.

A sunscreen spray for hair?

It is best to protect hats, panama hats, and scarves from overheating and the sun. Hair sprays can be used if you decide to sunbathe with your head uncovered. Especially if you have colored hair.

What is sunscreen dry spray?

Now two types of similar products have appeared on the market. The first type is an oily dry spray. This sunscreen oil is usually anhydrous and contains a decent amount of alcohol.

The first disadvantage of such a product is because of the oil format, it contains only chemical sunscreens, and to achieve a high SPF their quantity is quite large, so they should not be bought for people prone to allergies, especially children. In addition, due to the alcohol content, the product can dry the skin.

The second format is aerosol dry sprays. In fact, the innovation is only in the packaging of the product, and according to the recipe it is a regular waterproof cream. Just due to the packaging, it is very finely atomized, creating a very even coating, it does not need to be smeared with hands. Also, a large content of various silicones gives a feeling of dryness and silkiness during application.

From the pros – it is applied very simply and quickly, very pleasant and non-sticky on the skin. Of the minuses – such a tool will have a large consumption, well, and again, because of the format, it contains only chemical filters.

Which manufacturer to choose?

In the European Union, Australia and Japan, there are very stringent requirements for products, so you can safely buy brands of manufacturers in these countries. It should be understood that a cream with a high SPF cannot be cheap, since a large number of sunscreens are added to its composition, which affect the cost of the product itself.

How much does a good sunscreen cost?

The cost of a good product with a volume of 200 ml can start from USD 70 in a store. But in general, it’s better not to focus on price. There are more important factors.

When choosing sunscreens, consider the phototype of your skin first. Also pay attention to the information on the label. However, regardless of the chosen remedy, remember that doctors do not recommend sunbathing for a long time, so take sun baths wisely.

Is it safer to buy a cream in a pharmacy?

It all depends on your preference. This does not affect the quality of the product. There are pharmacy brands that are not sold in stores and vice versa. The opinion that the pharmacy sells “more medical” cosmetics is a prejudice. The main thing is what to buy, not where.