I feel like it’s not officially summer until I write a post about sunscreen and sun protection. It goes without saying that sunscreen is super important and that you should apply it every morning, but is the sunscreen you’re using fully protecting you from effects of sun damage?
You’re probably familiar with SPF ratings – it tells us how well the sunscreen protects us against UVB, the rays responsible for causing sunburns. The higher the SPF, the longer we’re able to stay in the sun before our skin start burning. UVB can also contribute towards photoaging (think wrinles and dark spots) and tanning, but the primary culprit? UVA rays. In other words, UVA protection is the key to keeping your skin spot and wrinkle-free!
That’s not to say UVB protection isn’t important, but too many sunscreens emphasize UVB protection with their SPF100 ratings and brush off UVA protection with a simple “broad spectrum” label. NOT cool. Luckily Asian and European sunscreens recognize the importance of UVA protection, so you’ll typically see a PA or PPD rating on those. Here’s a conversion chart between the 2 UVA protection ratings:
PA+ = PPD 2-4
PA++ = PPD 4-8
PA+++ = PPD 8-16
PA++++ = PPD 16 and higher
*For “broad spectrum” sunscreens, you can get an idea of the UVA protection by plugging the UV filters & their % in sunscreen simulator. The projected results is by no means 100% accurate, but it gives you an idea of the range.
So why is it important to know a sunscreen’s UVA protection rating? Because unlike UVB rays, UVA are long rays that can penetrate clouds and glass, so your skin is at risk for wrinkles/dark spots/tanning even when its cloudy or you’re indoors (source). So while SPF50 isn’t necessary for everyday use, PA++++/PDD 16+ is definitely the rating you’ll want to look for. PA+/PA++ isn’t even worth it in my opinion. It’s like seeing SPF10 on products – like why is that even there? It serves no friggin purpose! *rants*
Current sunscreen stash & mini reviews
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of UVA protection, let’s talk sunscreens. I currently have 3 in my skincare wardrobe, 1 that I love, 1 that I like, and 1 that I want to love, but hate.
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF50+ Fluid Ultra-Light PPD38
This is my “outdoors” sunscreen that I’ll use when I know I’ll be out for more than 1 hour. It has a whopping PPD38, which I can only imagine would be PA++++++? YES, GIVE IT TO ME. For a non-Japanese sunscreen with such high protection, it’s surprisingly light. It has a liquid texture that leaves a somewhat shiny finish, but it’s not greasy or heavy at all for my combo skin. Mind you this is NOT the US version, which uses a different set of chemical UV filters and has a lower PPD (28). This is the European/Asian version that contains Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL which work together to offer superior UVA protection (source).
- Kanebo Allie Extra UV Gel Mineral Moist Neo SPF50+ PA++++
This has the light yet hydrating texture typical of most Japanese sunscreens, though it’s definitely not as refreshing as the Biore UV Aqua Watery Essence. It contains physical and chemical UV filters, and while it doesn’t leave a white cast, it does leave a shiny finish. This definitely keeps me from tanning and new dark spots from forming, so you know the UVA protection is strong with this one.
- Naruko All-in-One High Potency Sunscreen Complex SPF30 PA+++
This was supposed to be my everyday sunscreen, and while it had a light texture, it pilled way too easily. I use this exclusively for my neck and arms now, so at least it’s not a total waste.
Overall I think Japanese sunscreens with PA++++ are still the most comfortable and affordable ones out there, but if you really want some serious UVA protection, European sunscreens (esp. La Roche-Posay) are worth looking into. As for those “broad spectrum” sunscreens they sell in the US, you can try asking the brand to see if they can provide a PPD rating or using the sunscreen simulator, but personally I’d pass on those.
Do you have a favorite sunscreen that’s protected your skin from photoaging? I’m always looking for the next best product to try out (because I have difficulty staying faithful like that), so recommendations are always welcome!