Finally, the summer season has arrived! As the weather gets warmer, and we spend more time outdoors, protecting your skin from the sun should be a top priority!

We’re all familiar with sun cream, but how much do you really know about how it works?

This post will explain everything you need to know about sun cream, how it works and why we need it! Most importantly you’ll understand exactly what you’re putting on your skin!

beach sunrise Source: Radoan_tanvir

How does sun cream work?



Many of us are unaware that there are actually two different types of sun cream. These are sunscreen and sunblock.

While they sound similar, and seem to be used interchangeably, they are in fact very different.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen works by combining organic and inorganic chemicals to filter light from the sun. This helps to reduce the sun rays that penetrate deeper layers of the skin. In turn, this reduces the amount of damage it can do to your skin.

While some rays still manage to penetrate into these deeper skin layers, the percentage is dramatically reduced.

Sunblock

Alternatively, sunblock reflects and scatters light away from the skin, just like a mirror. This blocks sun rays from penetrating the skin.

These reflective particles tend to contain zinc or titanium oxide, which are incredibly effective at blocking sun rays.

You may have noticed sunblock on people’s skin, as it’s a recognisable thick white lotion. Even after application, it can sometimes still be seen on the skin.

Interestingly, sunscreens often include sunblock as part of their active ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

What do sun creams protect against?



As you may already know, sun rays are made up of Ultra Violet light forms. There are three strands of these UV rays:

UVA

UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis skin layer. These can be very harmful to your skin and can cause both skin cancer and premature skin ageing. They also play a part in the tanning your skin.

UVA rays make up 95% of all UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. What’s more, they are more or less of equal intensity throughout the year. They also penetrate through clouds, so be cautious on a cloudy day!

UVB

UVB rays create more damage to the upper epidermal skin layers. This means that it contributes significantly to the burning and reddening of your skin. At the same time, UVB rays play a minor role in tanning your skin.

The damage that UVB rays cause to the skin can lead to skin cancer and accelerate the ageing of the skin.

The intensity of UVB rays also varies depending on the season, time of day and location. Though generally they are strongest between 10 am and 2 pm.

UVC

Fortunately, UVC rays are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere, and therefore, they don’t reach the earth’s surface. This means that they’re not harmful to our skin!

sun rays Source: Skitterphoto

Why do we need sun cream?



In order to prevent any of these harmful rays from damaging our skin, it’s essential that we apply sun cream.

Sun cream protects our skin from burning in the sun. However it also helps to prevent a whole range of other skin conditions that can occur due to overexposure to the sun.

These include:

1. Premature ageing of the skin

2. Fine lines and wrinkles

3. Skin Discolouration

4. Age Spots

Put simply, applying sun cream before going out in the sun can prevent your skin from burning. It can also prevent much more serious skin conditions from developing, such as skin cancer.

facial skin cream Source: Luke Lehrfeld

How Sun Oils Work



Those of you who seek a deeper tan, and one that develops quickly, have probably tried sun oils!

These oils work by attracting additional UV rays towards your skin. They also intensify these rays, which in turn speeds up the body’s production of melanin (the skin pigment that gives skin its colour).

As a result, the skin tans at a faster rate.

However, as they say: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Sun oils can be incredibly damaging to your skin, as we’ll explain below..

sunflower oil Source: Wikimedia

Dangers of Sun oils

Sun oils can be extremely harmful to your skin. Extending and intensifying the sun’s exposure on your skin increases the power of the UV rays and the damage that they can cause.

This is especially dangerous given that sun oils attract both UVB and UVA rays. While UVB rays are worrying because of sunburn risks, UVA rays are particularly harmful.

With UVA rays penetrating deep into the dermis skin layer, they also damage the DNA in our skin cells. This causes the replication of damaged cells which in turn can lead to the development of skin cancer.

How to Avoid them



Given their dangerous nature, we would absolutely recommend avoiding these sun oils! Instead, seek alternative ways to tan your skin, without the damaging health effects!

One very simple method is to apply a tinted moisturiser before going to sleep. This will gradually tan your skin overnight, whilst moisturising the skin.

All in all, it’s a very quick, effective alternative!



By following this quick guide to sun cream, you can keep your skin looking healthy and burn free throughout the year!

We hope that this has helped you get to grips with any sun cream queries and swept away any myths lying around.