Chez SANNA, we believe that sunscreen is an essential part of any skin care routine. While it’s hard to resist the temptation to get a tan faster, sunscreen is an essential tool to protect against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays. We have curated a sunscreen guide explaining all of the differences, to help you make the most conscious choice when it comes to sun protection.
Understanding UVA & UVB Rays
UVA rays represent about 95% of the ultraviolet rays reaching the planet Earth. These are powerful rays that need to be protected against because they can penetrate the skin even through windows. Although UVA rays awaken the melanin in our body, the biological pigment responsible for the color of our skin, hair and eyes, allowing us to tan, they also form free radicals (a fragment obtained by splitting a molecule), which affect the structure of our skin, causing premature skin aging. These rays can also be responsible for skin cancers.
UVB rays represent about 5% of the ultraviolet rays that reach our planet, and even if they affect our skin more superficially, they are more dangerous than UVA rays. Although they allow our organism to conserve vitamin D, they are responsible for the formation of sunburns. They can also, like UVA, be responsible for skin cancer. Hence why it is crucial to find a Broad-Spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA & UVB rays.
The Sun Protection Factor ( SPF )
The SPF is a measure of the level of protection against UVB rays alone. The number next to the SPF label is considered to be the amount of time it will take you to “burn” in the sun. The number does not relate to the strength of the coverage, rather the amount of minutes you will be covered for before needing to reapply.
If it takes you 10 minutes to get sunburned, with an SPF 15 sunscreen it will now take you 150 minutes (i.e. 10×15). An SPF 15 sunscreen is not enough for optimal protection because it only reaches 94% of the rays while an SPF 50 protection reaches 98% of protection.
Beware, protection above 50 can be dangerous because it will give you a false sense of security that could lead you to overexposure and therefore be harmful. Sunscreens are grouped into 4 SPF levels: Low (6 to 10), Medium (15 to 25), High (30 to 50) and Very High (50+).
Although there is no international regulation on sunscreens and their compositions, the Commission’s recommendation of September 22, 2006 on sun protection and manufacturers’ claims as to their effectiveness requires that all sunscreens protect against both UVB and UVA rays.
Chemical Sunscreens vs. Mineral Sunscreens
Sunscreens are generally either chemical or mineral. The point of differentiation is mainly in the way it protects against ultraviolet rays.
Chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin, then absorb the UV rays, convert the rays into heat, and release them from the body. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include azobenzene, octinoxate and oxybenzone.
Sunscreens made from minerals (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), on the other hand, do not reach the epidermis but reflect the uv rays back to the skin like a screen and allow visible light to diffuse. However, they leave a white effect on the skin, which is not very pleasant and aesthetic, although they are very effective in terms of protection.
The state of Hawaii has just banned all sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate because they cause discoloration and deformation of coral reefs. These two substances have also been found at alarming levels by researchers in fish, algae and shellfish. Moreover, absorbed by our body, these chemicals could be powerful endocrine disruptors.
The Difference between Microparticles and Nanoparticles
The next level of sunscreen 101 is understanding the different sizes of particles that make up a sunscreen. To make it simple, microparticles are the favorable choice, because nanoparticles are so incredibly small that they have been shown to be detrimental to coral reefs. Nanoparticle zinc (mineral sunscreen) can be dangerous for reefs because the solar irradiation can cause the development of hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic to marine life.
Microparticles are big enough that they do not harm marine ecosystems in the same way. As they are about 1000 times larger than nanoparticles, they also do not represent a health hazard because they do not cross the skin barrier and therefore can’t reach our cells. Look for sunscreens that say non-nanoparticle.
Chez Sanna, we make it a point to honor and respect our health and the health of our planet, so we have curated two sunscreens options that are clean for you and the environment.