Sun Protection Does Not Always Equal Sun Protection

Sun Protection Does Not Always Equal Sun Protection

Not all sun protection products are equal. There are several kinds of light-protecting filters, different sun protection factors, etc. Find the answers to the most frequently asked questions in this week's blog post.

What is the difference between certified natural cosmetic sun protection products and conventional products?

The most significant difference is the light-protecting filters or UV filters that protect against UV rays. Certified natural cosmetics used mineral and plant filters while conventional products often use chemical alternatives. 

How do the various kinds of light-protecting filters work?

Mineral UV filters consist of mineral pigments of natural origin. They reflect sunlight much like a mirror. Thus fewer UV rays are able to penetrate the skin. These filters take effect immediately after application. 
Plant filters are high-quality, concentrated oils that absorb dangerous UV rays with their high concentration of antioxidants.
Chemical filters penetrate the skin where they convert UV rays into infrared radiation i.e. warmth. It can take up to 30 minutes after application to become effective.

Why practise caution when it comes to chemical filters?

Unfortunately, chemical filters are problematic as was shown in studies that they have a hormone-like effect that damaged the body's own hormone system and carry potential allergens. Moreover, they destroy coral reefs. Therefore the use of chemical light-protecting filters has been banned at many Australian and American beaches.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB protection?

UVA and UVB differ in their wavelengths: UVA rays are long-waved whereas UVB rays are short-waved. Thus UVA rays are able to penetrate the skin more deeply and are significantly involved in causing skin aging. UVB rays are unable to penetrate the upper surface of the skin. In Europe, sun protection products must protect against both UVA and UVB rays (a ratio of 1:3 UVA to UVB is recommended). If the product fulfils this requirement it is shown on the packaging with the label "UVA".

Under which circumstances should the various light-protecting factors be used?

Sun protecting products are unable to provide 100% protection against UVA and UVB rays the sun protection factor is thus an indication of how long the product is able to provide the stated protection. It is a kind of multiplier. If for instance, your skin turns red after six minutes of sun exposure time, the duration is extended ten-fold using a sun protection factor of ten (60 minutes), with a sun protection factor of 30, the duration is extended thirty-fold, and so on. It is of utmost importance to reapply a sun protecting product regularly. Take extra precaution by wearing sun protecting clothing.
Side note: 95% of UVB rays are warded off with an SPF of 20. This only increases by 3% when using an SPF of 50 that will ward off 98% of UVB rays.