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5 Facts You Didn't Know About Sunscreen

Posted by Nikki Wisher on Jun 14th 2021

5 Facts You Didn't Know About Sunscreen

When it comes to skin care products, sunscreen seems like one of the simplest of the bunch. It’s not an innovative new serum with a never-before-seen formula, nor is it a cream that seems to make wrinkles vanish overnight. It just keeps the sun’s radiation off your skin, right?

Truth be told, sunscreen is more complex and scientific than you may realize. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re using it wrong in one way or another. Because sun protection is so very important, this blog is dedicated to the sunscreen facts you need to know but have probably missed out on…until now.

Sunscreen Doesn’t Work Instantly

You likely know that you should be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours (or more frequently if you’re sweating or spending time in the water). Based on that, it’s a popular assumption that if you wait to apply your sunscreen until just before you head outside, you’ll get more use out of it.

You have great intentions, but the truth is that your sunscreen doesn’t immediately work to its full capacity. It needs about 15 minutes to bind to your skin and form an adequate layer of protection before you step out into the sun and start sweating it away. To make sure your sunscreen can do its job, make sure you apply it at least 15 or 20 minutes before your outing.

Some Sunscreens are Environmentally Damaging

You need sunscreen because you want to spend time in the great outdoors, but ironically, your sunscreen could be doing damage to the ecosystems you love. Many chemical sunscreens contain certain ingredients, particularly two chemicals called oxybenzone and octinoxate, which harm the corals in the oceans.

This is a serious problem because corals create healthy habitats for thousands of marine species. Coral reefs also help to break up powerful waves, keeping our risk for natural disasters and shore loss at bay.

The solution? Opt for reef-safe sunscreens like EltaMD’s UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 instead because these products don’t contain those problematic chemicals.

Sunscreen Can’t Stand the Heat

Real talk: sunscreen is one of those things that’s easy to forget. That’s why some people decide to stash some sunscreen in their car so that if they’re on the way to the beach or a hiking trail, it’s already there with them.

That’s a well-intentioned strategy but there’s a problem. The heat that comes in and builds up within your car actually breaks down some of the key ingredients in sunscreen. That makes it far less effective.

It’s best to always keep your sunscreen in a temperature-controlled environment. Look for other ways to remember your sunscreen, like adding reminders on your phone or stashing it somewhere visible in your bathroom so you see it and remember to use it.

Some Sunscreens Work in Different Ways

You already know there’s plenty of variety among sunscreens, did you know they don’t all protect your skin in the same way? In fact, there are two techniques sunscreens can use to block the sun’s rays: physical or chemical.

Most of the mass-produced sunscreens you’ll see are chemical sunscreens. The chemicals in these products create UV filters on your skin that protect you from sun damage.

Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, contain certain mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These minerals form a physical blockade to keep UV radiation out.

So which one is best? While both physical and chemical sunscreens can offer great protection against sun damage, many people prefer to go the more natural direction of physical or mineral sunscreens like Obagi Sun Shield Mineral Broad-Spectrum SPF 50. Mineral sunscreens are also safer for coral reefs and the environment.

Sunscreen Isn’t Just for Bare Skin

Most of us apply sunscreen the same way: we get dressed and then apply sunscreen to any exposed skin. All your covered skin will be protected by your clothing, right?

Not necessarily. Fabrics with a particularly tight weave can protect your skin well, but fabrics with a loose weave (i.e., most breezy summer clothes) won’t cut it. If you can hold up your clothing and see a decent amount of sunlight through it, it’s not giving your skin much protection. In those cases, it’s best to apply sunscreen all over.

Keeping Your Skin Sun-Safe

There’s always been a bit of a love-hate relationship between the sun and us humans. It’s absolutely essential for life and there’s something energizing about a sunny day. At the same time, we know that too much sun exposure puts us at risk for skin cancer as well as premature aging. So what is it – friend or foe?

Let’s call the sun a friend that requires caution. By all means, enjoy those sunny days and relish your time lounging by the pool. Just take precautions with sunscreen, which you can now use even more effectively because of all your new knowledge. Now go forth and put that knowledge to use, sun gods and goddesses!