Everything about sun protection

Maybe you're like me, sun protection didn't become a big issue until I was an adult. As a child, it was only paid attention to at the beach or on vacation in the south, but never at home. In the summer you sometimes got sunburned and then at some point you had a bright brown color, even though your skin type was clearly northern European pale. For me it was completely normal...

Nowadays, when it comes to skincare, people always point out how important applying sunscreen is for skin health and preventing premature aging, and we try to be much more careful with ourselves and our children. Unfortunately, the latter in particular doesn't always work the way we imagine, because resistance to applying cream has obviously not changed in the last few decades. And despite all this knowledge, I still have a really hard time finding the right sunscreen.

Maybe you're like me and something is always not 100% right when I test the products for the first time. Nevertheless, I would like to use my expert knowledge to give you a detailed overview of why sun protection plays such an important role in skin care and what you can pay attention to when choosing sun cream - even if I can't give you THE tip here.

The sun – source of life and happiness

For us, the sun represents much more than mere physical radiation. It is an essential source of life, it supplies us with energy and awakens in us the pure joy of life! Visible or invisible, sunlight regulates the changing seasons and your natural circadian rhythm. In spring, when nature comes to life and the light stimulates endorphins in our bodies, the vitality of the sun can be particularly felt. After the gray winter, the outside world becomes more colorful again and our inner world becomes enlivened. A few minutes of sunlight every day strengthens the immune system and gives you feelings of happiness. We feel energetic, active and alive.

But what happens when you don't get enough sunlight?

A lack of light can lead to depression and low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D, which your body produces when exposed to sunlight, strengthens your bones and teeth. A sufficient amount of sunlight should also contribute to protection against autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation or allergies.

So why do we need sun protection at all?

The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays, of which UVA and UVB are the two most important. UVA rays have longer wavelengths and penetrate deeper into the skin. They are mainly responsible for premature aging of the skin and contribute to the development of wrinkles and age spots because they damage collagen and elastin, which are responsible for the firmness and elasticity of the skin. This effect increases over time with continuous exposure to the sun and can significantly affect the appearance of the skin. UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and cause sunburn. They are also a major factor in the development of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, and most cases are caused by excessive sun exposure. UV rays can cause changes in the DNA cells of the skin, which can lead to malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Protecting yourself from UV rays through the use of sunscreen can therefore help reduce the risk of skin cancer. To do this, you should pay close attention to whether your skin changes and visit a dermatologist regularly to have your skin checked for any suspicious-looking changes.

Why is sun protection particularly important for people with fair skin?

Melanin is a pigment found in the skin, hair and eyes. It plays an important role in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. Melanin is produced by specialized cells in the skin called melanocytes. The protective effect of melanin is based on its ability to absorb and scatter UV rays. When skin is exposed to the sun, UV rays penetrate the skin. Melanin absorbs these rays and converts them into a less harmful form, usually in the form of heat. This prevents UV rays from reaching deeper layers of the skin and causing damage. The amount of melanin in the skin varies depending on skin type and genetics. People with darker skin tend to have higher amounts of melanin and therefore natural, built-in protection against UV rays. Melanin production can be stimulated by various factors, including sun exposure. This explains why most people's skin tans when exposed to the sun. People with fair skin have less melanin, which means they have less natural protection from UV rays. Your skin is more susceptible to sun damage such as sunburn, premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancer. But people with darker skin should not rely on being sufficiently protected by the higher melanin content. Complete protection against the negative consequences of UV radiation can only be guaranteed by regularly using sunscreen with a sufficient sun protection factor.

How long is my self-protection period?

The self-protection time in the sun varies depending on the skin type and is the time that you can spend in the sun without additional sun protection before the skin suffers damage. This self-protection time is influenced by various factors such as skin type, sun intensity and geographical location. Please note that the self-protection times stated here are only a rough guideline based on the Central European climate and can vary greatly from person to person. There are five general skin types, ranging from very light (Type I) to dark (Type V). Here is an overview of the self-protection time for each skin type: Type I: Very light skin, strikingly pale, reddish hair, light eyes, freckles. The self-protection time is usually 3 to 10 minutes. Type II: Light skin, blonde to brown hair, light to green eyes. The self-protection time is usually around 10 to 20 minutes. Type III: Mixed type, light to light brown skin, dark blonde to brown hair, different eye colors. The self-protection time is usually between 20 and 30 minutes. Type IV: Brownish skin, brownish-olive skin, dark brown to black hair, brown eyes. The self-protection time is usually around 40 to 45 minutes. Type V: Dark skin, light to dark brown, black hair, brown eyes. The self-protection time is usually between 45 and 60 minutes.

What exactly is a sunburn?

Sunburn occurs when the skin is damaged by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, especially UVB rays. It is an acute reaction of the skin to these harmful rays. Sunburn usually occurs within a few hours of sun exposure, but can also be delayed and develop up to 24 hours after exposure. During sun exposure, UVB rays penetrate the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. There they cause damage to the cells, especially to the DNA molecules within the cells. This DNA damage activates the skin's inflammatory mechanism and triggers a series of reactions. The typical symptoms of sunburn are redness, pain, swelling and sometimes blistering of the skin. The severity of a sunburn can vary from mild to severe, depending on the intensity of sun exposure and the sensitivity of the skin. In severe cases, sunburn can also be accompanied by headaches, fever, nausea and general malaise. Please note that severe sunburns may require medical attention. A sunburn is not only painful and uncomfortable, but primarily a sign of skin damage, which can have long-term effects such as premature aging of the skin, increased risk of skin cancer and other skin changes.

What types of sunscreens are there?

There are different types of sunscreens on the market that differ in their formulation and mode of action:

1. Chemical sunscreens contain chemical compounds such as avobenzone, octinoxate, oxybenzone and octisalate. These compounds absorb UV rays and convert them into heat to protect the skin.

2. Physical or mineral sunscreens contain mineral filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These mineral particles reflect and scatter UV rays from the skin's surface, thereby protecting the skin.

3. Some sunscreens contain both chemical and physical filters to provide comprehensive protection against UVA and UVB rays.

4. Tinted sunscreens contain additional color pigments that give the cream a slight tint. These products not only provide sun protection, but also serve as a makeup base or replacement for foundation. They can help even out skin tone and conceal minor imperfections.

5. Water-resistant sunscreens are specially formulated to stay on the skin and maintain sun protection even when swimming or sweating. However, they still require reapplication after swimming or after intensive sweating, because providers can describe a sunscreen as waterproof if it still offers half of the originally measured protection after two 20-minute swims.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of chemical and mineral sunscreens?

Sunscreens with chemical sun filters often have a lighter texture that spreads easily over the skin and are now generally almost invisible. Chemical filters have a high absorption capacity for UV rays and can effectively convert them into other forms of energy. This means they usually offer broad protection against UVA and UVB rays. However, some people are sensitive to certain chemical filters and may develop skin irritation or allergic reactions. Chemical sunscreens require a certain amount of time to develop their full effect and should be applied about 20 to 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. Some chemical filters can also be broken down by sunlight, reducing their effectiveness over time. In addition, some chemical filters combined with sweat can cause stains, especially on white clothing, that are stubborn and difficult to remove. In other countries, the approval conditions for chemical sun filters are sometimes different than in Europe. In Hawaii, the filters octinoxate and oxybenzone are prohibited because they are believed to have a harmful hormone-like effect on aquatic fauna when dissolved.

Mineral sunscreens provide broad protection against UVA and UVB rays, creating a physical barrier on the surface of the skin that reflects and scatters UV rays. Mineral sunscreens are often well tolerated and generally do not contain any potentially irritating ingredients. However, mineral sunscreens also have some disadvantages. They have a thicker texture and can leave a slight whitening effect on the skin, which some people find annoying. Distributing mineral sunscreens on the skin can be more difficult. Some manufacturers are trying to get around these problems by using the mineral particles as nanoparticles, although their use has been criticized because their impact on the environment has not yet been well understood. However, they are not currently thought to be absorbed through healthy skin.

Which potentially harmful substances should I avoid?

First of all, when buying your next sunscreen, you can make sure that it doesn't contain any of the ingredients that you don't want in any of your other skin care products. This of course includes parabens, which are used as preservatives and are a no-go for us due to their potential hormonal disrupting effects. You should also avoid silicones for the sake of your health and the environment. If you have sensitive skin, also avoid fragrances, which can be potential allergens and cause skin irritation, and high concentrations of alcohols, which can dry out your skin. And of course microplastics have no place on the skin or in care products. Some chemical sunscreens, such as avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have raised concerns about their possible hormonal effects on the human body. It is assumed that they interfere with the hormonal balance or could influence hormonal processes in the body. The same goes for homosalate, a chemical UV filter commonly used in sunscreens. It has been known that it can act to some extent like the female hormone estrogen. Octocrylene has also been criticized for its potential hormone-like effects. In addition, the substance is not very stable and over time the substance benzophenone can be released, which is considered to be potentially carcinogenic.

A look at the list of active ingredients is therefore an absolute must when buying a sunscreen, even if the tests by Stiftung Warentest showed that banned substances could not be detected in any of the most recently tested products.

What does the sun protection factor do?

The sun protection factor (SPF) of a sunscreen indicates the maximum amount of time you can stay in the sun per day without damaging your skin. This value is calculated by multiplying the skin's own protection time by the sun protection factor. For example, an SPF 30 means that with the appropriate sunscreen you can stay protected in the sun for 30 times longer. If the skin's own protection time is five minutes, you could get a maximum of 2.5 hours of sun with this sunscreen. According to the requirements for sunscreens, a product is only recognized as a sunscreen if it has a sun protection factor of at least 6 and the UVA protection factor is at least one third of the specified SPF. In other words, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 only needs to provide UVA protection of at least 10. This is also why it is recommended not to exhaust the calculated maximum duration.

Which sun protection factor should I use?

Which SPF you should choose depends on various factors, including the UV index, the skin's natural protection time and the degree of tanning. The season and location also play a role. Especially in spring, when the skin is not yet used to the sun, it is more susceptible to sunburn. In such cases, a higher sun protection factor is required. However, if the skin has already been exposed to increased sunlight in the summer and is already tanned, a lower SPF is sufficient. It is important to adapt sun protection to individual skin needs and circumstances. Only you can decide which sun protection factor is right for you. For some groups, the following applies: When staying in the sun for a long time, a high sun protection factor should always be used, regardless of the factors mentioned above. This applies, for example, to people with very sun-sensitive skin, babies and small children and people who are undergoing certain drug therapies (cancer patients) and to certain skin conditions such as acne and rosacea.

What should I pay attention to when it comes to sunscreens for children?

Especially when spending time in the sun with babies and small children, you should make sure you have enough natural shade, textile sun protection and the right sunscreen. Children's skin has to develop first; it is even thinner and much more sensitive than that of an adult. Infant skin in particular reacts sensitively to UV rays because it produces less melanin, which at the same time results in a shorter period of self-protection. Correct here means that it should have a high sun protection factor and should not contain any potentially irritating ingredients. Sun creams for babies and children therefore usually work with a mineral sun filter and do not contain any fragrances. They are also good for adults with sensitive skin.

How much sunscreen should I apply?

There can only be one guideline here and that is “generous”, because when it comes to sunscreen the motto is “a lot helps a lot”. For sufficient use of sunscreen, the German Cancer Society recommends applying around 2 milligrams per square centimeter of skin. To put this into practice, the rough guideline is about a teaspoonful amount for the face and neck. About a handful of sunscreen is needed for the body, including the arms and legs. Of course, it is important that all exposed parts of the body are well covered. If you sunbathe every day, for example, a 200 milliliter bottle is enough for five days - at most: Since protection is lost when bathing, drying off and sweating, you should always reapply cream. But even without trips into the cool water, it is recommended to reapply cream after two hours at the latest.

For a 14-day beach vacation that means bringing at least three bottles with you.

How do I protect lips, scalp and hair?

The thin and delicate skin of the lips cannot develop a natural protective barrier by thickening the stratum corneum. For this reason, it is important not to forget your lips when applying sunscreen or using a lip balm with SPF. A sun protection factor of 50 is useful for the skin of the lips and the protection should be renewed regularly as it can be lost through sweat or saliva.

Our scalp is exposed to a lot of solar radiation over the course of our lives, especially if our hair is thinning or we have thin, thin hair from birth. In recent years, more and more scalp fluids have come onto the market that have a very light texture. To prevent the hair from sticking together, they usually consist of chemical sun filters and have corresponding advantages and disadvantages. Our hair also suffers from long exposure because the radiation makes it brittle and dry. The best way to protect it, just like the scalp, is of course by wearing a hat. After a long day at the beach, our hair really likes it when you work a few drops of a nourishing oil into the ends. Use our HAir Repair Elixir for this.

How can I care for my skin after sunbathing?

When you come home in the evening in summer, you should first clean it thoroughly but gently to remove all the sweat and the remains of the sunscreen. Since she likes to stay cool after a hot day in the sun, a colder shower is highly recommended. For the face, of course, the double cleansing. Afterwards, products that have cooling and healing properties are recommended. Hyaluronic acid is a good choice to replenish moisture reserves. My vacation luggage always contains the Skin Repair Hyaluron Day + Night Serum and the moisturizing mask .

Common misconceptions about sun protection:

Sunscreen only on sunny days?

Please remember that sun protection is not only important on sunny days. UV rays can penetrate and damage the skin even on cloudy or cloudy days. Even in the shade, the reflection of UV rays from surfaces such as water, sand or snow can result in significant exposure.

Re-creaming increases the duration of protection?

Unfortunately no, the duration of protection provided by sunscreen cannot be increased by applying the sunscreen again. Repeated application of the cream is recommended to maintain the protection provided by the cream. Especially after swimming or exercising.

Tanned skin is healthy?

A tanned complexion is generally considered healthy and attractive. In fact, tanning is just a defense reaction of the skin to keep out damaging UV rays. So every tan ultimately just shows that the skin has been damaged. Of course, this doesn't apply to people who are naturally brown.

Sunscreen leads to vitamin D deficiency?

Although sunlight is important for our body to produce vitamin D, depending on skin type, just five to 25 minutes a day is enough. Sunscreen doesn't completely block UV rays, so according to studies, you don't have to worry about not getting enough vitamin D through frequent application.

Conclusion and final tips:

As you can see, there are a few things to consider when buying sunscreen. Please understand that we cannot recommend any products here, we can only provide you with all the background information. The individual skin needs and personal preferences are simply too different to make general recommendations. And to be honest, I'm still looking for the perfect cream. You always have to make compromises or compromises somewhere. But I'm happy to continue searching for you and will regularly share new results with you.

As final tips:

Don't forget to apply cream to your ears and the backs of your hands, especially after washing your hands. And cream should also sometimes be applied under clothing, for example on the shoulders. It's so annoying when you come home in the evening after a day in the sun and those spots are burned even though you've tried so hard to avoid it.

I hope we were able to help you with the information and I'm looking forward to a wonderful and sunny summer with all of you. Hopefully with the right sunscreen :)