As a woman of colour and one growing up in the 80’s I don’t ever recall any hullabaloo about SPF…SPF on myself or anyone else for that matter! My earliest memory of my slight obsession with SPF can be traced back to my years in London. Walking the streets of Oxford circus, stepping into elaborate beauty stores aesthetically displayed with the most amazing array of skincare/bodycare and delicious fragrances.
So, needless to say, it was on one of my trips to Oxford Circus that I found myself purchasing my very first tube of SPF. I can’t even recall the name of the SPF brand exactly! But one thing I do remember is the smell and the whitish/greyish mess it left on my face. Oh, the stickiness…don't get me started! I honestly could not wait to get it off my skin every evening. As a young woman who was already suffering from a bad case of acne, this “must-have” left me reeling to never touch the stuff again. And to be honest, I didn’t…not until many years later when my acne seemed under control and I mustered up enough courage to give a different SPF brand a try! Bleh, another brand, same smell and greyish/whiteish/blueish luminescent colour to my skin…not the glow I was trying to achieve while in the prime of my youth.
By then I understood the importance of wearing SPF but the days of doing so were far and few between. That was until I stumbled across an article in a glossy mag about K Beauty and the wonders of a white-cast free SPF. I was sold on this revolutionary discovery and tried desperately to get my hands on the product. The brand in question was COSRX and the product was the Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50! A few years down the line, dedicated to and so much smarter on sun protection, I have not gone a day without SPF, irrespective of where I am and what I am doing!
This blog though is not about the brand of SPF I wear, although I swear it has changed my life; there are so many white-cast free, pleasant smelling SPF’s in the K Beauty market. This blog is most certainly about finding one you truly won’t want to do without and why you really should wear an SPF every day.
Since starting YOUR BEAUTY BOX, one question I always ask potential clients, friends, neighbours, moms on the school run…do you wear SPF? Mostly, I get NO followed by the obligatory reasons as to why not! And unsurprisingly it's my women of colour that offer up the most candid remarks. The guilty sigh then the eyes roll, quickly followed by, urgh the smell…oh no the white streaks/cast/marks it leaves on my skin, it leaves my skin feeling sticky and then I get some who mention time? Not enough time to add the most important step to their skincare routine…really?
Ladies…sorry to break it to you, your reasons for not wearing SPF in the 21st century are truly irrelevant and here’s why.....
Most Koreans avoid the sun and using an SPF is a must in their daily skincare routine. Their skincare goal is to have a spotless radiant complexion and therefore protecting against the sun’s harmful rays is non-negotiable.
Yes, so you know about SPF, but what’s all the jargon in front of it though? Most people will say they need the highest SPF factor for their skin. When you read an SPF label, the number you see indicates the protection against UVB rays. UVA relates to the sun damage caused that may result in premature aging, photodamage, and even skin cancer. While UVB light relates to the damage on the surface of the skin, i.e. sunburns. So even though protecting yourself from UVB rays is important; if you want to fend off fine lines, wrinkles, and spots, UVA protection matters just as much as UVB.
Furthermore, you should pay attention to the letters “PA” on the front of any good SPF. “PA” refers to Persistent Pigment Darkening and is more predominantly utilized across many Asian brands to provide a thorough UV rating reference. You should notice the + symbol after the letters “PA”, as well as the number of plus symbols. This indicates the level of UVA protection you are getting. Four or more plus symbols equal to the highest level of UVA protection as opposed to three plus symbols which offer medium protection followed by one or two plus symbols which provide little to moderate coverage. Therefore you should ensure your SPF clearly displays the “PA” (or PPD) rating in front. Pick an SPF range that is suitable for your needs, e.g. low SPF (20 to 30) if you stay indoors for most of the time and a higher SPF if you stay out in the sun for very long
Why does most western SPF leave my skin with a white cast and or has a strong distinctive SPF smell?
The main culprit is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in physical sunscreen. The active ingredients prevent UV radiation from penetrating your skin by reflecting the sun's rays. A great ingredient to block the sun; however, when the sun’s rays reflect off your face, it gives that whitish/greyish cast like appearance. And the smell; well again we can blame those two blockers titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as well as the absence of a little something more pleasant smelling instead.
Scouring the internet to research this topic I came across varying articles relating to SPF and varying degrees as to why SPF manufactured in South Korea is so much more technically advanced than those manufactured in the USA or even Europe for that matter. Primarily it spoke about the FDA regulations on SPF manufactured in the USA and that sun protection is considered an over the counter drug in America. Apparently, it is an exhaustive process to approve advanced UV filters to be used in SPF manufacturing. On the other hand, South Korea is literally decades ahead of this innovation and continues to explore new technology to improve SPF and the manufacturing process.
I know I am not going to change minds overnight about always putting sunscreen on, so what happens if you decide to skip the SPF? The sun’s rays can cause hyperpigmentation, otherwise known as brown spots/patches that discolour the skin. These patches are also known as age spots, which occur when UV light accelerates the production of melanin. Sun exposure can also cause broken capillaries which damage collagen and can cause loss of elasticity, sagging skin, wrinkles, and burning that may lead to scarring and even skin cancer. SPF is singularly one of the most important factors in keeping your skin healthy and should be a major part of your daily skincare routine.
What is the point of investing in a “miracle” eye cream or that “wonderful” day moisturizer that gives you a glow for hours, when you leave your skin unprotected and vulnerable to the sun’s rays to wipe off all that goodness the minute you become exposed to UV light. Adding an SPF routine to your daily skincare regime is a serious business and one you should be dedicated to.
The most effective anti-aging trick is to protect your skin from the sun...if that’s not incentive enough to get you applying this beauty then I don’t know what is!
**Please note, I am not a dermatologist and the above article and scientific data displayed therein is in no way the result of lab research conducted by myself or yourbeautybox.co.za. But rather from my passion for a healthy skincare routine that allows your natural beauty to shine. The above article is from my own perspective as a woman, my research on the internet and my desire to impart knowledge.Should you have any concerns regards to your skin relating to UV damage please do seek medical attention.