Sunscreen is a must-have in every skincare routine. While it might seem like the last thing you need, it is essential to any skincare. In this blog post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about sunscreen and how you can incorporate it into your skincare routine.

What is sunscreen?

As the name suggests, sunscreen shield our skin from the adverse effects of the sun. Let me take you through a small physics class to build a background on this topic.

The sun produces three main ultraviolet (UV) rays; UVA, UVB, and UVC. These rays get their names based on their wavelength. As you may recall, rays with shorter wavelengths penetrate deeper than those with longer wavelengths. 

Since UVB has the shortest wavelength, it penetrates the skin the most (epidermis and the dermis). Hyperpigmentation, sunburns, and skin cancer are just a few consequences. Longer wavelengths and less skin penetration (epidermis and a slice of dermis) are characteristics of UVA radiation. The effects include skin tanning and aging. You don’t need to worry about UVC as the ozone layer usually absorbs it, and if it passes, it never penetrates past the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin). 

Back to sunscreens, they work by deflecting or absorbing uva and UVB rays from your skin. They, therefore, protect your skin against premature aging, dark spots, and free radicals that worsen acne and skin cancer.

Types of sunscreen

Types of Sunscreen Image

Physical/mineral sunscreen

These sunscreens shield you from the sun’s damaging rays by reflecting or blocking by sitting on your skin. They are commonly known as sunblock, and their formula includes metal oxides (such as zinc and titanium oxide). For those with sensitive skin, they are the best option.

Here are the unique characteristics of physical sunscreen:

  • Less irritating and a great choice for sensitive skin.
  • Has a high moisturizing tendency, which can feel heavy on the skin.
  • Difficult to fully blend into the skin. New developments have a more matte and tinted version to reduce the white cast after effect.

Chemical sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens use ingredients that absorb damaging UV rays and convert them to harmless heat. The actives in these sunscreens include octocrylene, avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone. They essentially feel like a moisturizer on the skin and therefore do not have the effect and white residue seen with mineral sunscreens. They blend easily on the skin but must be applied at least 30 minutes before you go outdoors for them to be effective.

Chemical sunscreens statistically perform better on consumer tests that look at how long they protect the skin from UV rays. They have been shown to cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin and may worsen melasma and rosacea. However, it may cause skin reactions in certain people.

How to determine the right sunscreen for you

Here are the things to consider while getting sunscreen:


The sunscreen you select needs to have the ability to protect you against both uva and UVB rays so that you do not get sunburns, photoaging, dark spots, and skin cancer.

Image showing sunscreen protection

SPF 30 or more

SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of protection from UVB rays. The scale usually runs from 2 to 50+, with an SPF 50 providing the strongest form of protection. However, bigger does not mean better! For example, SPF 30 shields you against 97% of the sun’s rays, while SPF 50 protects against only 98%. The recommendation is at least SPF 30; SPF 50 is advised at the beach or during extreme heat.

Water resistance

It would help if you never fell for claims that sunscreen is water-proof. The term denotes how long you stay UV-protected when you sweat or swim. Dermatologists recommend reapplying every 2 hours. 

A Woman Swimming After Reapplying Sunscreen Image

Skin type

Based on your skin type, you can choose mineral sunscreen, chemical sunscreen, or hybrid sunscreen (a blend of the two). Mineral sunscreens are the best for sensitive skin, while oily and acne-prone skin types do well with chemical sunscreens. If you have dry skin, your best choice is a sunscreen with hydrating ingredients. If you have melanated skin, look for a tinted sunscreen that blends well with your skin without leaving a white cast.

Key Takeaways

  • Sunscreens are a must in your skincare routine, and you should layer them after your moisturizer.
  • The best sunscreens have a broader spectrum of protection, are water-resistant for approximately two hours, have an SPF of 30 or more, and are suited to your skin type.
  • Mineral sunscreens may leave a white residue on the skin, and you can prevent this by getting yourself tinted sunscreen.