The rosy winter bids us adieu and the sultry summer knocks at our door! The heat wave has hit India and so has the rush to buy a sunscreen."There are so many sunscreens and I don't know which one to use!" is the usual sentence I get to hear in the Skin Matra Clinic. 

So here is a brief overview of what sunscreens are and how to choose the 'right' sunscreen

1. SPF or Sun Protection Factor

SPF, in simple words,  is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect the skin from UV rays. SPF's range from 15 to as high as 60. Which one would be the best for us Indians?  A sunscreen with a  SPF of at least 20 and above would suffice. A lot of the sunscreens available in the market routinely have a minimum SPF of 15. But here is a glorious fact of the Indian skin colour: Since we are a  brown skinned race, we naturally have the ability to protect ourselves from the sun because of the pigment (melanin) present in our skin. So we are inherently built with a SPF of 15! Such is the beauty of our colour. So what we pretty Indians need to buy is a sunscreen of more than 19 SPF. That would ideally give us the protection needed.

Next question: Is a higher SPF better? If you look at the above photo, not really, if you compare SPFs 15 and 30 there is hardly a 4% difference in the rate of sun protection proffered by the SPF's. This gaps reduces further between 30 SPF and 60 SPF, where 30 SPF would offer a 97% protection and 60 SPF would offer 99%... just a 2 % difference.  

Also, higher the SPF the stickier the preparation. This is something oily skinned people should take into account. 

2. Applying the sunscreen   

Apply the sunscreen half hour (30 min) before you step out into the sun. This is the amount of time it takes for the sunscreen to bind to the skin cells and get activated. 

All those rushing out to their jobs in the morning... alas! you need to get up 30 minutes earlier from tomorrow!

3. Reapplying the sunscreen

Re-apply the screen if you are going to be in the sun for more than 3 hours. That's because the sweat tends to dilute and wash off the sunscreen. Which is why carrying the sunscreen with you especially in the summers is the ideal thing to do.

4. Applying before make up or after make up?

This again is a perennial question in many of the working women's minds. Wear the sunscreen 'before' the make up. It will help protect the skin and help the make up stick to your skin better.

PC: Bruce Sussman

Let's not run away from the sun this year! After all they do say "make hay while the sun shines" for a reason!