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Learn all about UV filters and find the right one for you.

May 13, 2022Notino
We all love the feeling of warm sunshine. It’s a great way to warm up, it puts you in a good mood, and it gives you vitamin D. But we can’t forget the accompanying negative impact that lands on our heads, quite literally, via the depleted ozone layer. For the effective prevention of skin diseases, wrinkles and pigment spots, I absolutely recommend including sun protection products in your daily routine. And not just in the summer!

If we explore the world of SPF more closely, we come across terms such as chemical, mineral and physical sunscreens. What is the difference between them? And is one of them better than the others?

To mess with your heads just a bit more, let’s bring some clarity to the exact names used for sunscreens.

A mineral sunscreen, also called a physical sunscreen, could also be referred to as an inorganic sunscreen due to its zinc oxide- or titanium dioxide-based contents. The second group of protective sunscreens, based on carbon chains and other chemical compounds, are organic sunscreens, also called chemical sunscreens.

 

How does SPF actually work on our skin?

 

Sunscreen prevents the sun’s UV rays from penetrating deep into the skin and damaging our skin cells. The SPF components absorb radiation and convert it into small amounts of energy, mostly heat. It’s not a dramatic amount which would affect your body’s overall temperature. There’s a much greater risk of overheating if we remain exposed to direct sun for a longer period of time. So remember to stay in the shade as much as possible in the summer.

Chemical UV filters absorb and convert 100% of the radiation in this way, whilst physical ones also have the ability to reflect around 5-10% of the UV back (like a mirror) from the surface of the skin. A mineral sunscreen handles the remaining radiation in the same way as a chemical sunscreen.

 

How do I know how much SPF I need?

 

You can only get the desired level of sun protection (i.e. SPF 20, 30, 50, etc.) if you apply a sufficient amount of the product. Trust me, it’s probably more than you thought it would be. You should use 2mg of the product per cm2 of skin. Imagine, for instance, the average amount of moisturiser you normally apply. That’s definitely not enough. :)

For simplicity, I use my index and middle fingers as a measuring tool. I apply SPF cream all along their length and apply this amount to the whole of my face, including the eye area and the ears. If I need to protect my neck from the sun as well, I add another “finger” of cream. I also never skimp on the amount I use when applying SPF to my body.

 

What are the characteristics of UV filters, and which one is better for me?

Chemical (organic) UV filters

  • Act preventatively against pigment spots.
  • Are absorbed more quickly.
  • Leave little or no white film on the skin.
  • The texture may feel stickier, but also more moisturising.
  • Often suit skin with a more marked texture (but this isn’t necessarily a requirement – they are suitable for all skin types).
  • It also works very well with makeup.
  • It may contain multiple cosmetic ingredients, so it needs to be tested for adverse reactions to the individual ingredients before use.

Notino tips for chemical SPF: 

  • If you’re looking for UV protection that also works seamlessly with your makeup, you’ll love the La Roche-Posay Anthelios SHAKA with its fluid, quick-absorbing consistency!
  • The Vichy Capital Soleil UV-Age Daily is not only great for your skin as sun protection, but its enriched formula also helps you to effectively avoid wrinkles and pigment spots.
  • Is your skin greasy and acne-prone? Try the Sun Oil Control by Eucerin. Its gel consistency protects against the sun whilst giving the skin a subtle mattifying effect.
  • Sun protection, hydration and soothing in one is delivered by the Nuxe Sun.

Products

Physical (mineral/inorganic) UV filters

  • Can reflect a certain amount of radiation that’s already on the skin’s surface.
  • Thanks to the main ingredient (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide), they can leave a white coating, so may not be suited to people with darker skin tones.
  • The white film may tempt you to use less sunscreen than you actually need.
  • The consistency tends to be thicker, which is something dry skin appreciates.
  • They often give your skin a mattifying effect.
  • Due to the texture and subtle colouring, they may work poorly with makeup and crumble.
  • Thanks to its simpler formula, it is suitable for eczema, acne-prone skin, or sensitive skin prone to irritation, as well as children’s skin.

 

Notino tips for mineral SPF.

Products

What’s the verdict?

It is impossible to objectively determine which type of SPF sunscreen is significantly better or worse. When choosing a sunscreen, you need to be guided primarily by your needs, preferences and skin type. The only right UV sunscreen is one that you are comfortable with and are happy to use regularly.

 

THE TOP FIVE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT SPF

 

1.How long after application do chemical and mineral sunscreens start working?

In terms of how quickly they start working, there’s no significant difference in the sunscreen types. Both work from the moment they are absorbed into the skin, which can take different lengths of time for different products, e.g. up to 20 minutes. If you wear makeup, you can increase the reliability of the sun protection on your face if you wait until the sunscreen is fully absorbed before putting on your makeup.

 

2. Is it enough to apply SPF during your morning routine for all-day protection?

Repeated application of sun protection is the key to all-day, quality UV protection. This applies to both types of sunscreen. Both gradually evaporate, wipe off or wash off of your face and body. If you are exposed to the sun all day (even in the car), you should ideally apply SPF every 2 hours, or always before going out in the sun. If you are wearing makeup, incorporate the SPF over your makeup at least with a sponge, or use a thicker layer of powder/cushion foundation with SPF protection. 

 

3. Can the zinc nanoparticles in physical sunscreens penetrate our skin?

Due to their size, the nanoparticles of these elements cannot penetrate the deeper layers of the skin unless applied to injured skin (burns, abrasions).

4. How do I know how much SPF I need?

You can only get the desired level of sun protection (i.e. SPF 20, 30, 50, etc.) if you apply a sufficient amount of the product. Trust me, it’s probably more than you thought it would be. You should use 2mg of the product per cm2 of skin. Imagine, for instance, the average amount of moisturiser you normally apply. That’s definitely not enough. :)

For simplicity, I use my index and middle fingers as a measuring tool. I apply SPF cream all along their length and apply this amount to the whole of my face, including the eye area and the ears. If I need to protect my neck from the sun as well, I add another “finger” of cream. I also never skimp on the amount I use when applying SPF to my body.

 

5. Do sunscreens harm coral reefs?

We are still waiting for an extended scientific study to confirm whether sunscreens cause permanent damage to coral reefs on a large scale. The biggest risk factors for coral are climate change, rising sea temperatures, global water pollution and mass fishing. 

However, if you are planning to pack a chemical-based SPF lotion for your holiday this year, check to see if your destination is on the list of countries that have banned the use of these products (or ingredients in them) in their seas as a precautionary measure. If you are concerned about protecting nature, choose a mineral protection sunscreen.

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