Most, if not all of us are guilty of exposing ourselves under the sun whether wearing sunscreen or without.
Majority of people think that it’s not important to wear sunscreen because some people claim that they still get sunburnt while wearing sunscreen.
I used to be one of those people until I saw what happened to the skin of someone that I personally know. She has fair skin and she takes good care of her face. Unfortunately, she neglected her arms.
We met recently and I noticed that her arms have dark spots or pigmentation. She asked me if I know why her arms have those. (Picture below is just for illustration purpose only)
When I asked if she’s wearing sunscreen, she said she doesn’t. She further told me that she used to wear long sleeves but now she wears short sleeves and exposes her arms under the sun while she is driving.
Seeing her arms look similar to the picture on the right made me take wearing sunscreen is not only important but essential in every day life. Sunscreen is not only to be worn when I go for swimming in the pool, in the morning and afternoon but whenever I go outside the house. In addition, wearing sunscreen is not only limited to be put on the face but all over the exposed skin which includes neck, hands and legs if one is wearing shorts or a dress.
Let’s have a look why exposure to the sun causes pigmentation either on the face or skin.
When our skin is exposed to the sun, the cells in the skin produce melanin. Melanin resulted in darkening of the skin and hence dark spots or also know as pigmentation.
The more we exposed ourselves to the sun, the more the skin cells stimulate the production of melanin and the darker the skin becomes.
So, can we stop our skin cells to produce melanin?
Unfortunately the answer is no. The moment you go outside the house, being in the car, walking towards a shop, etc you are inadvertently exposing yourself to the sun. Unless in the extreme case, you prefer to be in a dark room with no windows.
Having said that, can we reduce pigmentation or at least the appearance of pigmentation?
I would say yes.
No 1. If you already have pigmentation on your skin, you can eventually get rid of it. In my personal experience, I’ve had small dark spots on my face lighten up because I consistently use a mud mask on my face at least once a week.
No 2. Wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 daily AND avoid sun exposure is crucial in preventing pigmentation. This is what I do now. If I wear short sleeves, I will put on sunscreen on both arms and I will also wear my long sleeves sweeter (when I’m driving) to protect my arms from direct sunlight.
No 3. If you have to be under the sun for more than 30 minutes, wear sunscreen with higher SPF and reapply it on your skin according to the instruction. The one that I’m currently using is SPF 35 and I will need to reapply after 80 minutes of swimming.
When I’m teaching in the morning or afternoon, I make a habit to finish my class in 75 minutes. I got out of the pool, take my shower and reapply the sunscreen.
Now let’s address the claims made by some people who said that they still get sun burnt from wearing sunscreen.
There are a number of reasons why these people experience sunburnt despite wearing sunscreen.
Below are the summary from Huffpost healthy living.
Expired sunscreen. Does it matter? Hell Yes!!! The active ingredients in the sunscreen are only good to protect your skin as long as they aren’t expired.
Not enough. When it comes to sunscreen, less is not more. A dab of sunscreen isn’t enough to do the job when compared to apply generously on the skin.
Missing a few spots. This mostly happen when you are applying sunscreen on your own body. To make sure that you are fully covered, get a loved one to apply sunscreen on the areas that you missed.
Too quick to soon. Read the label of the sunscreen. Some says to put on 15 or 20 or 30 minutes before sun or water exposure. It says so and so minutes so the active ingredients have time to work on the skin. So wait and let the ingredients soak in the skin for so and so minutes before going out there.
Apply once and forget about it. Most sunscreens don’t work like that. Often than not, they need to be reapply again and again especially those who are swimming or doing water sports and activities. Sunscreens do wash out in the presence of water and sweat. Best to apply once every hour.
Apply during sunny days only. Unfortunately it’s a myth that you won’t get sun burnt during cloudy days. There are also Ultra Violet Radiation (UV) to consider. The sun radiates UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can penetrate the skin more deeply even through thick clouds and is the culprit of aging skin. UVB rays cause sun burn.
Higher SPF doesn’t mean higher protection. We all fall into thinking higher SPF gives us even better protection. Unfortunately this isn’t so. SPF 30, when applied in the appropriate amount can block about 96% of the sunburn-causing UVB rays from the sun. About 98% with SPF 50 and still under 99% with SPF 75. There is still no way to block out 100% of the sun’s rays with sunscreen. Higher SPF doesn’t change how often you’ll need to reapply or how long you can be in the sun.
Relying on sunscreen for total sun protection. Another mistake that we make is thinking by wearing sunscreen, we won’t get sun burnt. Most, if not all sunscreens can’t block out 100% of the sun’s UVB rays. And again wearing sunscreen doesn’t give you the permission to stay under the sun for as long as you want. You will definitely get sun burnt.
Below is a video made by SciShow on what causes sunburns to further your understanding.
Eventually I gave up using sunscreen. I swam in the pool without sunscreen and I admit that my skin has darken over the years.
Last year, I finally found a sunscreen that isn’t oily or greasy and to my surprise, it has a pleasant smell. It’s completely the opposite of the previous sunscreens that I’ve ever used before. Ever since then it has become my favourite sunscreen.
When it comes to choosing sunscreen, here are few things to look out for:
Protection against UV rays (UVA and UVB)
Anti-aging benefits (if any)
Water resistant (if you’re doing water sports)
Non-greasy (easily absorbed into the skin)
The sunscreen that I’m currently using fulfills all of the above criteria.
Protects against damage associated with UV exposure.
Keeps skin cooler in the presences of sunlight, including infrared rays.
Helps calm skin during and after UV exposure.
has Aloe vera, Bisabolol, and panthenol to moisturize and soothes the skin.
If what I’ve shared here spark your interest to wear sunscreen and is interested to know more about this sunscreen, send a private message on our facebook page, if you’re one of our students then email us, I will forward you the info.
Hayatti Rahgeni The Effortless Swim Team