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  • This Is How Sunscreen Actually Works (Plus, Everything Else You Need To Know)

They say the best time to start wearing sunscreen was yesterday. If you’re just beginning to add this essential step to your daily regimen, it’s normal to have plenty of questions. You might be wondering: What role does natural suncare play in our skin’s health? Why should one consider natural sunscreen or baby sunscreen options?

To satisfy your curiosity, we’ve compiled some key insights. Read along to find out how sunscreen actually works (plus, everything else you need to know).

How Sunscreen Works

Sunscreen acts like a superhero cloak for your skin, protecting you from the sun’s two main villains: UVA and UVB rays.

Think of UVB rays as the ones that leave you red and sunburnt after a beach day. They’re like the sun’s fiery arrows, stronger in the summer but sneaky enough to bounce off surfaces like water or snow, catching you off guard even on cold days.

On the flip side, UVA rays are the undercover agents of the sun’s spectrum. They’re present all year round, rain or shine. They slip deeper into your skin, setting the stage not for a quick burn but possibly for a long game of causing wrinkles, sunspots, and that leathery skin texture we all want to avoid. This damage doesn’t show up immediately but may sneak up on you over the years.

How does sunscreen pull off this protective feat? 

By either absorbing the UV rays and transforming them into heat, which is then released from the skin, or by reflecting the rays away from the skin, sunscreens work to shield you from the harmful effects of sun exposure.

Natural sunscreens, for instance, use mineral filters like zinc oxide to create a physical barrier on your skin. This barrier deflects and scatters the harmful rays, keeping them from penetrating your skin and causing damage.

Navigating Through Sunscreen Options

Chemical or Natural Sunscreens?

The world of sunscreens can be a bit daunting, especially when choosing between chemical and natural sunscreens. While both types may offer broad-spectrum protection against harmful UV rays, they work in distinct ways.

Chemical sunscreens absorb sunlight and convert it into heat, releasing it from the skin. On the flip side, natural sunscreens, also known as physical or mineral sunscreens, reflect sunlight off the skin’s surface. Since they contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide, they are less likely to cause adverse reactions.

Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin and Young Ones

Sensitive skin and baby-friendly formulations are essential. Designed to minimise skin irritation, these sunscreens skip controversial ingredients, including chemical sun filters. 

They often use mineral UV filters that form a physical barrier on the skin. Moreover, these formulations also exclude common irritants like fragrances, parabens, and synthetic preservatives. This means they help guard against the risk of triggering inflammation.

Such gentleness typically makes them ideal not just for adults with sensitive skin but also for babies whose delicate skin requires the utmost care.

Spotlight on Non-Nano Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

In your quest for the perfect sunscreen, you may have come across the term ‘non-nano zinc oxide’. 

Nano zinc oxide consists of smaller particles that, due to their size, have the potential to be absorbed by the skin and enter the body. On the other hand, nano-zinc oxide options refer to a formulation of natural sunscreen that uses larger particles of zinc oxide that cannot penetrate the skin while providing excellent sun protection.

Choosing Water-Resistant: Extra Support

For those sunny days spent by the beach or pool, opting for a water-resistant sunscreen offers an added layer of sun protection. 

While it’s important to remember that no sunscreen can claim to be completely waterproof, water-resistant varieties are designed to maintain their protective qualities during activities involving water or sweat. This generally makes them ideal for anyone looking forward to aquatic adventures or outdoor workouts. 

Cruelty-Free and Vegan Formula

Incorporating nature’s best into our daily skincare is vital, and what better way to start than with cruelty-free and vegan sunscreens? 

These products guarantee that no animal testing was involved in their development, and they’re formulated without any animal-derived ingredients. They focus on harnessing the power of natural elements to offer sun protection that’s not only effective but also kind to your skin and the planet.

Reef Safe Sunscreen

The sunscreen we use can have far-reaching effects beyond our own skin. In particular, it directly influences ocean life. Traditional sunscreens can contain chemicals that, when washed off in the sea, can harm marine life, like coral reefs. 

But worry not; there are now sun protective formulas that are reef-friendly and avoid the use of chemical filters that harm oceanic ecosystems. With these, you can take that ocean dip with peace of mind, knowing our sea friends are safe.

Applying Sunscreen: Essential Recommendations 

Quantity of Sunscreen: Finding the Perfect Amount

You may have heard the saying, ‘less is more’, but when it comes to sunscreen, more is definitely more. 

You’ll want to be generous, ensuring every bit of your skin that will be exposed to the sun is well protected. A general rule is to apply approximately one teaspoon per arm, leg, and the face (including the neck and ears). 

Reapplication: Consistent Protection

Now that you’ve lathered on your sunscreen, is that it for the day? Not quite. While a solid foundation is crucial, the key to true sun protection lies in consistent reapplication. Be sure to replenish your skin with sunscreen every two hours, and always apply immediately after excessive sweating or after you take a dip – even the water-resistant types!

Key Points to Remember

Understanding how sunscreen protects our skin from the harsh rays of the sun is the first step in embracing a healthy, sun-safe lifestyle. Here’s a recap of the crucial points we’ve covered:

  • UV Protection: Familiarise yourself with UVA and UVB rays, the main culprits behind skin damage.
  • Sunscreen Types: Know the difference between chemical and natural sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and convert them to heat, whereas natural (mineral) sunscreens reflect the rays off the skin's surface. Moreover, natural sunscreens are often gentler on the skin and the environment.
  • Sensitive Skin Solutions: You may want to opt for sunscreens specifically formulated for sensitive skin and young ones. These typically use mineral filters, avoiding irritants like fragrances and parabens, making them suitable for babies and adults with sensitive skin alike.
  • Non-Nano Zinc Oxide: Seek out non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens for a safer, physical barrier against the sun that doesn't penetrate the skin.
  • Water-Resistance: While no sunscreen is entirely waterproof, water-resistant options provide additional protection during swimming or sweating, making them perfect for active days out.
  • Reef Safety: Consider the environmental impact of your sunscreen. Opt for reef-safe formulas to protect marine ecosystems while safeguarding your skin.
  • Application Tips: Remember, when it comes to sunscreen, more is better. Apply generously to all exposed areas and reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, to maintain optimal protection.

Crafting nature-inspired skincare solutions, Little Urchin is an Australian brand devoted to creating a sustainable future. Our suncare products are not only cruelty-free and reef-safe but also contribute to overall skin health.