Sunscreen and Indian Skin: Spilling the Tea - Part 1 

With the scorching summer heat fast approaching, it’s time to re-examine the age-old topic of sunscreens. 

Sunscreen has always been a touchy subject for us Indians. Many of us are happy to invest in products that tackle a variety of issues ranging from anti-aging to wrinkles and acne but somehow don’t believe in the power of good sunscreen. 

This is perhaps due to the bizarre myth surrounding Indian skin tones and sunscreen; People with medium to darker skin tones have more natural protection from UV rays and therefore don’t require sun protection. 

Is that true though? Maybe it’s high time we separate the facts from fiction. 

While there is some truth to this statement, the fact that we should avoid sunscreen is very ill advised. 

According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology (IJDVL), in darker skin types there are several inbuilt mechanisms protecting the skin against ultraviolet damage. This is due to a thicker epidermis and larger amounts of melanin present in the skin that allows a much lower percentage of UV radiation to filter through. Lighter skin on the other hand contains less melanin, leading to higher penetration of UV light causing various sun-induced problems. 

The good news is that Indian skin tones have some protection against the sun. But it does not necessarily mean it is enough to protect one against the sun’s harmful rays. Prolonged direct exposure to UV rays with lack of protection can manifest its effects, both immediately and over several years. Some of the effects of inadequate sun protection include sunburn, acne, increased fine lines, decreased elasticity, patches of discoloration, and sometimes even skin cancer. The bad news is that tropical countries like India are exposed to greater levels of UV radiation which highly increases the chances of skin cancer. This means that the disciplined application of sunscreen is crucial. 

But there’s also a matter of choosing your sunscreen. How should you pick the right one? What ingredients should you avoid? Are sunscreens universal? Read on to find out! 

What are the different types of sunscreen? 

A day in the sun does not come without risks. Exposure can lead to your skin absorbing harmful UV rays. UV rays are generally invisible to the eye and are classified as per their wavelength. The three main types of UV rays include - UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVB and UVC rays have shorter wavelengths compared to UVA rays. Usually, the shorter UV rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, so by the time it reaches your body, it can only penetrate your skin in the form of UVA or UVB. Research says UVB rays can only penetrate the top layers of your skin but UVA rays can go deeper because of their longer wavelength causing more damage. Therefore it is important to choose sunscreen containing active ingredients that work to create a secure UV filter against its harmful effects. For the purpose of this, the most common types of sunscreen, include - Mineral and Chemical. 

Chemical Sunscreens 

Chemical sunscreens typically work as a sponge and absorb and scatter the sun’s UV rays into the skin.  They work by turning the absorbed rays into heat and eventually release them from the skin. 

Pros: Spreads easily onto the skin; Usually requires less product upon application; Generally easier to combine with other products like peptides and enzymes

Cons: Tend to allow some UVA exposure; can take up to 20 minutes to be effective which may require prior planning, can increase acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation; frequent application. They are also absorbed into the skin 

Mineral Sunscreens 

Mineral sunscreens generally sit on top of the skin’s layer and act as a protective shield while deflecting the sun’s harmful rays. 

Pros: Works by forming a layer of protection instead of penetrating the skin, helps protect against the heat as well, which helps with hyperpigmentation, Protects against both UVA and UVB rays; very safe formulations and can be used on babies and during pregnancy; One can step out immediately after application; great for sensitive and acne-prone skin; longer shelf life, 

Cons: frequent application; some formulations can leave a white cast; difficult to find a good one

That being said, it is imperative to understand how the different types of sunscreen work and what they can do for your skin type. At Clean Beauty Booth, we believe in using products that are clean, harmless, and non-toxic. Mineral sunscreens provide the benefit of safe and harmless ingredients while giving you that much-needed sun protection. To learn how to choose the right mineral sunscreen check out part two of our blog! 

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