Everything You Need to Know About Sunscreen

Let’s talk about sunscreen and what you really need to know. The constant debate between physical vs. chemical sunscreen is confusing – haven’t we all been using chemical sunscreen all along?

With so many questions around sunscreen and the importance of sun protection, how do you go about choosing the right sunscreen that is good for you and the environment? We take a look at everything there is to know about sunscreen and how to buy one most suitable for your skin and lifestyle.

What does sunscreen do?

Ask any skincare guru, and they say one thing: do not ditch your sunscreen. Applying sun protection is an undebatable part of your beauty regimen as your trusty sunscreen protects your skin from harmful UV rays. A little bit of sun is healthy until your skin absorbs the UV rays that cause darkening, ageing, and skin cancer. Think of it as your skin’s best friend and guardian. It keeps the bad stuff at bay and has some nourishing skin perks.

There are two kinds of UV radiation that affect you, UVA and UVB. UVB is responsible for sunburns, while UVA goes far deeper into the skin and causes skin ageing. Both UVA and UVB increase your risk of skin cancer. 

Sunscreen protects you from these rays via chemical or mineral/physical filters. Chemical filters absorb UV rays, breaking them down and while mineral or physical filters act as a physical barrier on the skin, reflecting UV light. Chemical filters include ingredients such as Oxybenzone and Avobenzone, while mineral sunscreens are usually derived from titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.


What is SPF?

SPF also known as Sun Protection Factor is a measure of how your sun protection product or sunscreen protects your skin from UVB damage. sunscreen’s ability to protect the skin from UVB damage. It is the number that you’ll see on your sunscreen bottle, like SPF 15, SPF 30 and so forth. This SPF number tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin if you applied the sunscreen compared with the amount of time without sunscreen. So, if you used an SPF 30 product, it would take 30 times longer for you to get a sunburn than if you used no sunscreen at all.

But, does that mean a higher SPF provides more protection? High SPF sunscreens give you only slightly better protection than a sunscreen with SPF 50. SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB radiation, SPF 50 blocks about 98%, and SPF 100 blocks about 99%. Therefore, a higher SPF should not give you any reason to stay out in the sun longer!

When it comes to UVA rays, many sunscreens do not protect against UVA ones which penetrate deep into the skin. To ensure you have proper sun protection from both UVA and UVB rays(both of which can cause skin cancer), make sure to buy sunscreens that say ‘broad-spectrum‘ on the tube. Sunscreens with mineral filters and containing Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide almost always offer broad-spectrum protection.


Chemical Vs. Mineral Sunscreen

Users are increasingly moving towards physical or mineral sunscreens and the debate between chemical vs. mineral sunscreen is one to watch. With the FDA recently showing that chemical sunscreen can be absorbed by the body, many are questioning the safety of the ingredients in these. Don’t let that deter you just yet though. While the ingredients get absorbed by the body, it is still to be established if these are harmful to our skin.

Physical sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin and block UV rays with the help of mineral filters. Physical or mineral suncreens are thicker and tend to leave a white cast on the body. They tend to be less irritating for sensitive skin types. Physical sunscreen is often heavier and thicker on the skin than a chemical sunscreen, which may deter those with oily or pimple-prone skin from using it.

The vast majority of sunscreens found on drugstore shelves is chemical. These type of sunscreens contain filters that penetrate the skin and absorb UV rays. Chemical sunscreens are able to provide effective protection without necessarily needing to be in high concentrations. This means their formulations can be lightweight and non-sticky making them ideal for daily wear. No white casts either!

Your choice of sunscreen entirely depends on your skin type and preferences. While you can buy physical or chemical sunscreen, a synergistic blend of ingredients can often give great SPF broad-spectrum coverage in a light, non-irritating formula.

Not to forget

Applying sunscreen is the first step towards UV protection but you need other mediums to help with coverage too. Consider wearing hats, sunglasses and UV protection clothing when out in the harsh sun. If you have a family history of photo-sensitive skin, steer clear of the sunbeds!

The amount of sunscreen and re-application is important as well. Make sure to top up on your sunscreen when spending long hours outside. Dermatologists recommend using the amount of a shot-glass for your entire body, and 1-2 tablespoons for your face. It is also recommended to reapply your sunscreen every two hours. And if you’ve gone into the water, don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen even if it says its waterproof.

Sunscreen Shiseido

How to choose the right sunscreen?

All the SPF pep talk aside, choosing which sunscreen to cop is a real dilemma. It is easy to get lost in a sea of choices and varying labels, with marketing frauds at that. Below, we break down each sunscreen label so you can choose which one will suit you best.


As mentioned earlier, SPF is just short for sun protection factor – an indication of the level of protection against UVB rays or the main culprit for sunburns. You will typically see SPF with a corresponding number from 1 to 100. This number determines how long you can stay under the sun without causing any damage or burning. Also, the higher the number is, the better the protection. SPF 15 can block up to 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 can block up to 97%, and SPF 50 blocks up to 98%. Don’t be too lax, though – you still have to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or when you sweat.


The term ‘broad-spectrum’ is a regulation from the Food and Drug Administration. When you see this label on a sunscreen bottle, grab it without question. It only means that it has sufficient protection from UVA and UVB rays, two harmful rays that cause skin cancer. UVA rays enter the skin deeper than UVB rays, and the former cause wrinkles, sagging, and other ageing indications. The latter induces sunburn by damaging the top surface of the skin. Either way, your skin is better off without these two; trust us.


If you have acne-prone skin, your best sunscreen bet is one that says ‘non-comedogenic’ on the label. Non-comedogenic products are free from ingredients that may clog your pores and cause acne, blackheads, and blemishes. However, it still depends on your skin’s reaction to sunscreen. Non-comedogenic products may still cause breakouts, depending on the ingredients and how your skin adapts to them. Always do a patch test before committing to any skincare product to save you from the hassle!

Shiseido sunscreen


A hypoallergenic sunscreen does not have common allergens or irritants that may aggravate sensitive skin. This means it has no fragrances, oils, or compounds that can cause allergic reactions. A friendly reminder, though: the term ‘hypoallergenic’ is unregulated and is on the companies’ own definition. Always double-check the ingredients and find out if anything might trigger a reaction.

Waterproof & Water-Resistant

UV rays can pass through water, so you should stay protected as you swim. Thanks to waterproof and water-resistant sunscreens, we are safe on that note. Water-resistant sunscreens have ingredients that enhance SPF underwater. On the other hand, waterproof sunscreens last twice as long as water-resistant sunscreens. 

SPF-infused Makeup

If only you could merge makeup and sun protection in one, then all is well, right? But the thing is, SPF in makeup is not dependable. The sun protection indicated in these products is often a marketing hack and does not provide sufficient protection against UVA/UVB rays. As such, you should still apply sunscreen under all your makeup. 

Shop our full range of sunscreens and sun protection skincare here