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What you need to know about sun protection

Sunblocks with higher SPF ratings give more protection from UVB rays and more + signs after PA mean a higher level of UVA protection

Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 50+ from Neutrogena (left) and UV Perfect Spray SPF 50+ from Biore. PHOTOS: NEUTROGENA, BIORE

What you need to know about sun protection

The importance of sun protection has been widely reported. Exposure to too much sun without adequate protection can lead to wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin.

But how much sunblock is enough? How much SPF (Sun Protection Factor) do you really need?

Ms Angela Du, principal scientist of beauty research and development at Johnson & Johnson, breaks down the essential information you need to know about guarding your skin against harmful rays.

How do I select a sunblock?

Higher SPF ratings generally mean greater protection from UVB rays (short-wave rays which usually burn the superficial layers of your skin). SPF 50 blocks an estimated 98 per cent of UVB rays.

The SPF rating, however, does not signify the amount of protection from UVA rays (long-wave rays which can penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin's thickest layers). UVA rays are linked to premature ageing and skin cancer.

More + signs after PA (protection grade of UVA rays) indicate a higher level of UVA protection. You can also look for products labelled "broad spectrum", which covers both UVB and UVA rays.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the minimum recommendation for daily sun protection is SPF 30, with a PA level of +++.

How much sunblock do I need to put on?

You need about two tablespoons of sunscreen for exposed areas of the face and body. An amount the size of a 50-cent coin is enough for the face and neck.

But re-applying sunscreen every two hours is recommended, with more frequent re-application if you are under strong sunshine or perspiring a lot.

If I am in the office all day, do I still need to wear sunscreen?

Yes, you should. Your skin is exposed to daylight more often than you think. UVA rays can penetrate through clouds, windows in your home, office and car, and this exposure can cause wrinkles and roughness and darkening of your skin.

Are there areas where people often forget to apply sunscreen?

The ears, back of the hands and the top of the feet are often overlooked.

Selected sunscreens


Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 50+/PA++++, $31.90, from Neutrogena, available at Guardian, Market Place, Unity and Watsons outlets and selected Cold Storage and FairPrice stores

This fragrance-free and hypoallergenic lightweight sunscreen is suitable for those with sensitive skin.

Mega-Defense SPF 45 Advanced Daily UV Defender, $70, from Origins counters

This non-chemical broad- spectrum formula helps protect the skin from UV rays and pollution.

Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50/PA+++, $47, from Supergoop!, available at Sephora outlets

It is absorbed easily into the skin and contains natural extracts of citrus, basil and boise de rose, which provides a subtle scent instead of an unpleasant sunscreen smell.

UV Perfect Spray SPF 50+/PA++++, $10.90, from Biore, available at leading pharmacies and selected super/hypermarkets

The convenient spray-on formula can be applied over make-up.

Non-Tinted Sunscreen SPF 50/PA+++, $69, from IDS, available at IDS Clinic and

This lightweight sunscreen offers broad-spectrum UV protection. It dries totally matt and can be used as a make-up base.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline What you need to know about sun protection. Subscribe