I took sun protection seriously at a young age when I decided I wanted to look 18 for the rest of my life, and have been wearing sunscreen since I was about 18.
A lot of people with skin problems and pimples eventually come to a point where they become totally afraid of all products — but sunscreen seems the scariest. I went through this despite being a hardcore sunscreen believer.
I, Olena, gave up sunscreen for a while because of FEAR.
Conflicting research on the internet suggested that you can absorb nanoparticles and get chemically poisoned by the stuff. The seemingly sticky texture of sunscreen also makes people assume that it clogs pores.
So even people with very good skincare routines can be a little worried about sunscreen and wonder if it’s worth it…
To wear or not to wear sunscreen is the question…And today I’ll set the record straight. But first, what does that sun actually do to your skin, and why should you care?
How The Sun Affects Your Skin
Skin is a one-way defence system protecting us from environmental stressors such as heat, UV radiation, injury, and water loss.
Skin is our largest and heaviest organ, but unlike other organs, it’s constantly assaulted by the environment…It needs to be resilient and strong in order to continuously protect us.
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But sometimes we don’t protect it…
Enter the sun.
The sun emits UVC, UVB and UVA radiation. UVC radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer and isn’t important in this discussion.
UVB rays are the rays responsible for burning or tanning the skin and affect the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis. Because of their wavelength, UVB rays are scattered by glass.
UVA radiation are rays that penetrate all the way into the dermis (the layer of skin under the epidermis) breaking down collagen and elastin in the skin and creating deeper wrinkles.
Collagen and elastin are responsible for the skin’s integrity and youthful appearance.
The less collagen and elastin in the skin, the thinner, weaker, and saggier it is…It’s also more prone to damage and has a more difficult time healing.
Glass such as sunglasses or WINDOWS don’t stop UVA rays…Which means that your skin is being broken down wherever there is daylight, and even when you’re INDOORS.
As you can see, neither UVA nor UVB rays are any good for the skin. About 90% of premature aging is due to sun exposure.
According to one research article I stumbled upon, “It has been shown that 2 weeks of sun exposure (particularly UVA radiation) leads to an approximate 40% increase in the levels of common deletion in the dermis, which persists for at least 16 months.”
In plain English, this means that more skin cells die after sun exposure, and this effect lasts for at LEAST 16 months after only 2 weeks of sun exposure.
Are you rethinking sunscreen now?
But there’s more reasons why sun protection is important beyond just aging.
As UV rays breakdown collagen and elastin in the skin, making it weaker, the integrity of your pores is ruined, making them saggy and more prone do clogs and damage…
What does this mean for pimples?
Imagine a cylinder or a tube as your pore. A strong, healthy pore is a straight cylinder. A weak pore is a curved and bent cylinder.
Well, imagine your sebum flowing out through your pore…Is it more or less likely to get trapped in a wonky pore or in a strong pore?
Wonky pores lose — and are more acne-prone because they make sebum obstruction more possible.
But UV rays also create more free radicals on the skin and suppress the skin’s immune function. Again, this all means that the skin is WEAKENED by the sun. It can’t protect you when it is weak, and it can’t heal when it’s weak.
What Happened When I Stopped Wearing Sunscreen?
When I got a bout of adult acne in my late 20s I too became afraid of all products. I stopped using EVERYTHING. Sunscreen particularly scared the bejesus out of me.
I tried using oils on my acne-prone skin only to make it waaaaaay worse.
Giving up products was not the answer, and my skin suffered the consequences.
But the worst consequence of giving up sunscreen for about 6 months was my pore size. My skin really aged for the first time in my life…
What About Nano Particles In Sunscreen?
One more thing about sunscreen fear…
There’s a lot of fear around nano particles in sunscreen but you can rest easy because your skin doesn’t absorb anything you put on it.
The myth that your skin absorbs stuff is one that is commonly used to support fear-mongering in skin care. However, if it were true, you would be able to get nutrients from your pizza by just sitting on your pizza…
Alas, your skin does not work like your stomach.
Sunscreen contains nano particles in order to be effective in protecting your from UV rays – they scatter the rays. Most sunscreen companies use smaller titanium dioxide particles and larger zinc oxide particles to scatter UV rays, and the EWG (Environmental Working Group) supports this ingredient combination for sun protection.
All sunscreen contains nano particles, even though some sunscreen companies claim that they don’t. The size of sunscreen particles isn’t regulated, some are slightly larger while others are smaller ON THE NANO scale.
They have to be big enough to scatter rays, and small enough to be invisible to the naked eye.
If you can avoid eating your sunscreen then you’ll be alright — just don’t buy sunscreen sprays or loose powders and you won’t ingest any of the sunscreen.
What Happened When I Started Using Sunscreen Again?
After I did a lot of research and learned of my mistakes, I promptly bought a sunscreen and started wearing it rain or shine — every single day.
I was nervous that my pores would get clogged, but I knew that just washing my face thoroughly in the evening would be enough to stop clogging in its tracks.
Lo and behold, my skin improved. Not only did I start breaking out less, my skin also got lighter, brighter, and my pores seemed to shrink a bit.
Overall, my skin looked better and I’d say younger too.
I call the sunscreen effect “Aging Backwards”. Think Benjamin Button…
Sunscreen is meant to protect you from the sun, the biggest enemy to a youthful, bright and CLEAR complexion.
You need sun protection if you want to have amazing and clear skin, and that’s that. Strong skin can heal faster and is far more resilient than skin that’s constantly assaulted by UV rays and pollution.
Side note: My friends often see me flicking my forehead in the sunlight to relax my forehead muscles so that I don’t furrow my brow. Furrowing your brow in the sunlight is a recipe for wrinkles.
So Does Sunscreen Cause Pimples?
Once, I was using Avene sunscreen and found my skin getting worse. I handed it off to my mother, who weeks later complained that she was getting painful cysts in her skin.
The litmus test for sunscreen in my life is if my mother breaks out from it then it sucks because she doesn’t usually break out.
Generally speaking though, a GOOD sunscreen should improve your skin. Your skin will get stronger, and better at healing. If you still get pimples, they should come and go faster as your skin becomes increasingly more resilient.
Give your skin time to repair, and don’t freak out about breaking out. Read this article to find out how a pimple forms — hint: it doesn’t happen overnight.
Sun Protection For Clear Skin
Look for sunscreen that’s light and easy to apply, water-resistant, without fragrance, with a minimum SPF of 30.
Avoid sunscreen that contains oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, or octinoxate. These ingredients are not good for your skin and don’t belong inside a sunscreen.
Also, avoid spray or powder sunscreen because you’ll likely ingest it in this form…and sunscreen isn’t food. Apply sunscreen liberally throughout the day, and don’t be afraid to reapply.
After further research and experimentation, I realized that my sunscreen related fears were completely unfounded. In fact these fears were holding me back from great skin!
I’m now very happy to wear sunscreen, and my SKIN is happy — and SMOOTH and young too! I literally wear sunscreen when I’m sitting at home working…Because windows.