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The Science Behind The Working of Sunscreens

Sunscreen – the holy grail for the skin. Wherever we go, whenever we go, sunscreen is one of the must-have items. Even on regular days, sunscreen is essential for minimizing sun damage to your skin.

We have heard about the importance of Sunscreen forever, but how does sunscreen work to protect our skin?

It is easy to spray or lather on some SPF but the science behind it is quite complex.

How Does Sunscreen Work?

We all appreciate the natural bronzy glow with a youthful appearance the sun provides, but over time, excessive sun exposure can accelerate the signs of aging.

It’s important to understand how the sun affects our skin for us to know how sunscreen works to safeguard our skin from the sun’s rays.

Sunlight travels to earth in a combination of visible and invisible rays. Many of these rays are made by Ultraviolet radiations (UV rays). When these rays enter your skin they throw off body processes that affect the appearance of your skin and the growth rate of your skin cells. Exposure to UV rays can cause physical ailments like sunburns which are extremely painful to touch or cause wrinkles, fine-lines in the long term. The worst-case scenario would be skin cancer.

There are two types of UV radiation that can affect our skin.

  • Longer UV rays are called UVA rays
  • Shorter rays are called UVB rays.

When our skin is exposed to UVB rays excessively, it can lead to sunburns and superficial damage to the epidermis or the outer layer of the skin.

UVA rays, because they’re longer, can penetrate deeper into your skin’s thickest layer, resulting in more permanent damage.

UVB rays are less prevalent during the winter, mornings, and evenings, UVA rays are always present, regardless of season or time of day. UVB rays account for almost 95 percent of the radiation that penetrates the Ozone layer. Though UVA rays don’t cause sunburns, they are the main factor behind signs of skin aging and cases of skin cancer.

A sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum or full-spectrum protection will safeguard our skin from UVA and UVB radiations.

Factors That Affect Your Photosensitivity

The skin’s sensitivity to sunlight is based on a few factors such as –


As you get older, it becomes difficult for the skin to repair and heal itself and over time, UV damage can affect the skin’s underlying connective tissue. Due to this breakdown in elastin, the skin is prone to develop more wrinkles and lines.

This sun damage is directly incidental to our daily life. Every time we step outside without any sun protection, it adds more and more to the damage.

Skin Tone

Skin tone plays a significant role in determining your UV sensitivity. Those who have fair skin are more sensitive to ultraviolet light and are more likely to burn. On the other hand, people with darker skin have minimal sensitivity to the sun’s rays and rarely burn.

This happens due to Melanin production. Melanin helps block damaging UV rays. People with darker skin have a higher number of melanocytes which means more melanin and more protection from the sun.


The climate in your area and the time of year both affect the likelihood of sun damage. How much you’re outside in the sun, from which hour, it all results in calculating how much damage the sun can cause to the skin

Sun protection is important, especially during the summer months. India being an equatorial region, gets plenty of sunlight in most states. And there are more and more people who go out and work in the sun.

However, sun damage doesn’t happen in the summer months only. UV rays can wreak havoc on your skin all year round. So be sure to wear anti aging sunscreen with an SPF all the time.

How Does Sunscreen Work

Sunscreen works by mixing organic and inorganic active ingredients that protect the skin against the sun’s rays. It comes in a variety of forms like sprays, lotions, powders, or creams.

There are two types of sunscreen available – physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. Learn about the ways these are made and the ingredients they contain so that you can pick the one that’s best suited for your skin type.

Physical Sunscreen

Also known as mineral sunscreen, this sunscreen contains inorganic physical UV filters that reflect, scatter and obstruct the sun’s rays before they penetrate the skin. These active mineral ingredients, also known as physical blockers, are designed to sit on top of the epidermis rather than be absorbed into the skin.

Physical sunscreen contains Titanium Dioxide, which is a naturally occurring mineral. It’s a useful addition to sunscreen as it remains stable even when exposed to UV radiation and doesn’t degrade in the sun. It also includes Zinc Oxide that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

Advantages of Physical Sunscreen

  • Physical sunscreen naturally delivers broad-spectrum protection
  • It is less likely to irritate the skin
  • It reflects heat, making physical sunscreens a great option for those struggling with rosacea and other skin conditions distinguished by excess redness
  • Most physical sunscreens are non-comedogenic, implying they’re less likely to clog the pores

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen contains organic (carbon-based) active ingredients designed to absorb UV radiation upon contact. The organic compounds catalyze a chemical reaction when exposed to the sun. They convert UV rays into heat which then escapes from the skin.

Chemical UV blocks are made of several compounds like –

Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Oxybenzone, and Octocrylene. While these compounds offer advantages against the sun, they can also be quite hazardous to the skin and irritate.

Advantages of Chemical Sunscreen

  • Chemical sunscreen formulas tend to be thinner, making them easier to spread evenly across the skin
  • Chemical sunscreens rub into the skin, leaving less residue


Anti-Aging Sunscreen is extremely important for our skin. Now that you know how sunscreen works and what factors to consider before purchasing sunscreen, you can now easily find the one that suits you the best. Just slather plenty of sunscreen, especially on the uncovered areas of the body, and you’re all set to step in the sun without any worries.

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