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Sun creams: how to choose the right sun cream for your skin

With the arrival of summer, it becomes normal to desire to have amber-coloured skin that makes you look more beautiful, but also healthier, because it eliminates the pallor of winter days spent among city smog, domestic walls and little in the open air. However, the sun has its pitfalls and it is normal to protect yourself, so here is how to choose the right sun cream for your skin.

What is a sunscreen and what is it for

The sun’s rays are potentially harmful to the skin. The action of the sun can cause erythema and sunburn, and very dangerous pre-cancerous lesions can be created. These effects are related to UV radiation.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays: what are they?

Ultraviolet rays can be divided into three categories:

  • UVA,
  • UVB,
  • UVC.

UVA rays: stimulate melanin production

UVA rays penetrate deeply and stimulate the production of melanin, which is responsible for the more or less amber colour of the skin. Although they are dangerous, thin clothing, sunglasses and protection are sufficient to avoid problems.

UVB rays: stimulate vitamin D production and are responsible for pre-cancerous lesions

UVB rays, on the other hand, are more dangerous as they are responsible for pre-cancerous lesions, which in turn also stimulate the production of vitamin D that helps to fix calcium in the bones.

UVC rays: they are shielded by the ozone layer in the atmosphere

As far as UVC rays are concerned, they do not cause any particular problems because they are shielded by the ozone layer of the atmosphere.

Now we can talk about sun creams: which cream to choose for your skin

Having said that, we can talk about sunscreens.

Sun creams: the important protective function against the sun’s harmful rays

These protect the skin by preventing the sun’s rays from reaching the deeper layers of the epidermis. It means that they also protect the skin from erythema and sunburn, resulting in a more even and pleasant tan, although many prefer to tan without sun creams to achieve the desired results sooner. Better to say from the outset that this behaviour is wrong and puts your health at risk.

Sun creams: choosing sun cream for your skin based on SPF

Anyone who has been in a pharmacy, perfumery or cosmetics corner will have noticed huge shelves full of sun creams and will have been spoilt for choice.

What is the SPF? What is it used for and what does it indicate?

On all packaging, however, the SPF is indicated: what is it?
The SPF indicates the protection factor. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which varies from 6 to 50+. It measures the degree of protection against ultraviolet UVB radiation.
The value expressed is derived from a calculation that measures the amount of radiation required for a given phototype to suffer an erythema. This value is expressed in MED ‘minimum erythematous dose’. For example, if a given person takes 10 minutes in the sun to get an erythema, with a 20 protection, they could multiply this period by 20 and thus stay in the sun for 200 minutes without getting burnt. This is because the protection shields the rays and prevents them from damaging the skin.

How to choose sun creams: which sun cream is right for your skin?

Now that we understand what SPF is, the fateful question arises: how do we choose sunscreens?
The choice depends on one’s phototype.
However, dermatologists recommend never using protection below 15. SPF 30 is recommended not only for fair-skinned people, but also for those who have to spend a lot of time outdoors for work reasons, for example. For people with very fair skin, blue eyes and fair hair, and for children and babies, very high protection such as protection 50 or 50+ should be used. These are suitable for those with phototype 1 (very fair skin, blue eyes light blond hair) phototype 2 (blond or dark blond hair, fair complexion). For phototype 3 with dark blond hair, light brown hair and medium complexion, you can choose protection 30. While phototypes 4 and 5, typically Mediterranean, can choose a protection factor of 20/15. Phototype 6 with dark skin can choose sunscreen 15.

Choose sunscreen according to the altitude of your holiday location

Protection should also be chosen according to altitude, as it is estimated that for every 1,000 metres difference in altitude from sea level, UV radiation increases by 4%, so it is absolutely wrong to think of taking a holiday in the mountains uncovering your skin and not using sunscreen.

Dispelling clichés: sand is a powerful reflector of UV rays

Another commonplace is to think that you are more exposed when you are in the water; this is partly true because you lose your sunscreen, but it must be remembered that sand is a reflector of UV rays and therefore exposes you to the risk of sunburn and erythema.

Body cream vs. sun cream: why should you use a sun cream and not just any body cream?

Why use a sun cream and not just any body cream? Simply because they are prepared differently. Sun creams contain chemicals such as salicylates, oxybenzone, cinnamates and others that absorb UV rays. For even more protection, you can choose sunscreens that also contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, or physical filters. These are elements that reflect sunlight and so, when smeared on the skin, they ward it off.

Remember to spread the right amount of sunscreen on your body

Finally, it must be emphasised that for optimal protection it is also good to apply the right amount of sunscreen to the skin. For an adult, the right amount for each exposure is about 35 ml, the equivalent of a liqueur glass. Unfortunately, it has been found that most people use insufficient amounts of sunscreen, which considerably reduces the shielding and thus makes the choice of protection factor ineffective. Furthermore, if you decide to be exposed for a long time, it is a good idea to use it several times, even if it is indicated on the creams that the product is water-resistant.

Sunscreens and tanning creams: differences

Another common mistake is to confuse sunscreens with tanning creams. These are products that aim to accelerate the tan. Tanning oils in turn must be distinguished from sunscreen oils with a protection factor, the latter being similar in function to sunscreens.

Organic sunscreens: remember to read the INCI carefully to choose the right sunscreen for your skin

For those who only like to spread gentle, organic products on their skin, there are organic sunscreens. How to recognise them? In addition to the indication on the packaging, it is good to pay attention to the INCI on the label when choosing.


This places the ingredients used in higher percentages at the top and gradually those used less. Organic sunscreens replace chemical sun filters with physical sun filters such as zinc oxide, oryzanol, titanium dioxide. They are also rich in moisturising substances such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, aloe vera, and are free of dyes, fragrances and preservatives. These sunscreens are particularly suitable for those who have allergy problems and therefore want products that are gentle on the skin. Their particular delicacy also makes them perfect for babies and children.

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