The days of vacation, beach and pool are approaching and, as every year, we find ourselves with the dilemma of sunscreen: how do I know which one is better for me or which one is best for me? So that this summer you are perfectly protected under the sun we explain everything you have to take into account when choosing the right sun cream.

How do solar rays affect us? What do we have to protect ourselves?

Sun rays or electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun can cause damage to our skin, and that is why we must protect ourselves from them. The sun emits different radiations ranging from infrared (IR) to ultraviolet (UV) rays, but not all reach us equally or affect us in the same way.

Infrared rays are rays that provide energy and that produce the increase in temperature. Although there are infrared rays of three types (A, B and C), those that affect us are those of type A, which penetrate to the part of the dermis increasing its temperature. In this way, infrared rays make skin more sensitive to ultraviolet rays.

In the case of ultraviolet rays, there are also different types: A, B and C. The ultraviolet type C (UV-C) does not reach the Earth’s surface, since they are absorbed by oxygen and ozone in the atmosphere.

Yes, ultraviolet type A (UV-A), which is the most dangerous to our health, reaches us : 99% of the ultraviolet rays that reach the surface of the earth are of this type. UV-A rays penetrate to the deepest layers of the dermis and generate the appearance of free radicals, responsible for the premature aging of the skin and the appearance of skin cancer.

The ultraviolet rays of type B (UV-B) is partially absorbed by the ozone layer, but reaches the surface of the earth producing burns in the tissue.

Both UV-A and UV-B are risk factors for skin cancer : that is why it is so important that when choosing a sunscreen we choose a broad spectrum, which are those that protect us from both types of skin. UV rays.

What is the FPS that appears on all the protectors?

The FPS is the sun protection factor of each protector and it is accompanied by different numbers . What the number that accompanies the initials FPS means is that this is the time that protector protects the skin’s natural defense capacity before it burns.

A practical example: if your skin starts to burn after being exposed 10 minutes in the sun, with an SPF 15 cream it will take 15 times longer, that is 150 minutes or two and a half hours.

And how do we decide the sun protection factor that best suits us? We must take into account, among other things, our skin phototype. There are up to six different phototypes in which all types of skin are included:

The different phototypes

  • Phototype I: are people with very pale skin and generally reddish. Their skin usually burns and they can not get a tan .
  • Phototype II: are people with white skin and light hair. Your skin usually burns and does not tan.
  • Phototype III: people with intermediate skins whose skin reddens first and then tans. They usually have brown hair, and it is the most abundant phototype in Europe.
  • Phototype IV: the skin of people with phototype IV tans quickly and both their hair and their skin are usually dark.
  • Phototype V: similar to phototype IX, but with darker skin.
  • Phototype VI: are people with very dark skin or black skin. They do not burn but they must also use sunscreen to prevent skin damage internally.

Depending on our phototype we must choose a higher or lower sun protection factor, and also renew the application of the cream whenever necessary. For skins with an intermediate phototype it is usually enough with an SPF 30, while the paler or delicate skins should resort to higher protection factors to avoid sunburn.

In addition to taking into account our phototype, there are also other factors that we can not lose sight of in order to choose the right sun cream. For example, the latitude and altitude in which we find ourselves also determine how the sun’s rays affect our skin, or the solar reverberation (the reflection of the solar rays in water or snow) that implies a greater radiation.

Other aspects to take into account when choosing sunscreen

Protector resistant to water or sweat

It is important that we take into account in what situation we are going to use the sunscreen to choose its type well. We will not have the same needs if we are going to be on the beach or in the pool, going in and out of the water, if we are going to do sports.

In the first case it is important that we opt for a waterproof sunscreen, which maintains its sun protection factor at the same time as the boat indicates X minutes after bathing; and in the second case the best option will be a sweat-resistant sunscreen to ensure adequate skin protection.

Chemical filters or physical filters

The chemical filters are usually the most used in the manufacture of sunscreens because they absorb ultraviolet rays thus protecting our skin. Although most manufacturing laboratories have patented their own chemical filters, we can see if in the list of ingredients we find octinoxate or octisalate to locate them. The problem with chemical filters is that in very sensitive skins they can cause irritation or allergic reactions.

The physical filters are made of minerals (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide). They are broad spectrum and protect the skin by reflecting ultraviolet rays. The disadvantage of this type of filters is that they are whitish.

How is your skin type?

It is also important to choose a sunscreen according to our skin type. If we have oily skin , it is best to avoid those protectors made with oil base. If our skin is dry, surely it is also more sensitive: we will have to choose a slightly higher sun protection factor and we can also choose an oil or silicone based cream that helps us nourish the skin while protecting it.

In short: when buying sunscreen choose a broad spectrum and take into account your phototype, the activity you are going to perform (sport, bath) and the nature of your skin (dry, oily) to hit with the most indicated. And remember that you have to renew your application every so often (depending on your FPS) so that it remains useful!

Sunscreen application tips

  • It is important that we apply the sunscreen about 30 minutes before exposing ourselves to the sun : this way we make sure that our skin has absorbed the cream well and that we are really protected.
  • Be generous with the protector and apply it evenly throughout the body. Do not forget sensitive areas such as the shoulders, the neckline, the nose or the top of the ears. Some areas that go unnoticed and that usually burn are the legs and feet: apply it there too.
  • Renew the application of the sunscreen every time it is necessary: ​​every two hours or every time you leave the water of the sea or the pool.
  • Avoid sunbathing in the middle of the day, when the sun’s rays fall parallel to the earth. If you are on the beach, protect yourself from the sun with an umbrella.
  • It is also necessary to use sunscreen on cloudy days. Although our perception is of little sun and heat, the clouds do not stop the UV rays and we can suffer sunburn in the same way.
  • Make sure that if you wear a sunscreen that is not new, it is not expired. In the labeling of the container should appear a drawing of a jar with a number inside: that is the number of months that the sunscreen maintains all its properties after having opened the pot. Keep this in mind if you use protectors from past summers.
  • If you wear makeup , the sunscreen should be applied before it is effective.