Sunscreen: How to protect your skin from the sun

Sunscreen is a cream, spray, lotion or gel that is used to protect your skin from the sun’s Ultraviolet rays. This lotion/cream absorbs or reflects part of the sun’s radiation and helps protect the skin against sunburn. The best type of sunscreens are the ones that are branded “broad spectrum”. These type helps to protect against both types of Sun Ultraviolent Rays that is, the UVA and UVB by providing a chemical barrier that absorbs or reflects UV radiation before it can damage the skin.

If you are dealing with hyperpigmentation (that is dark spots) on any part of your body, or any part of your skin is getting darker than others and you’re wondering why your skin care product is not getting rid of the discoloration, this is for you. Please read this and share.

The first thing you should know is that the dark spot that you have on your body is due to the effect of a substance known as melanin. Melanin is a substance that is produced by our body, and it is what gives us our skin colour (for us, our dark skin color).

As people of darker color, our cells that produce melanin (known as melanocytes) are more active and produce more melanin compared to the Asian or European people.

This means that even though white and black people have the same number of these cells (melanocytes), black people produce more melanin than white people.

Our increased ability to produce melanin makes us more likely to get hyperpigmented (darker skin colour) and quick to produce melanin when we are exposed to the sun.

This is because melanin helps us in protecting our body from the sun rays. Our melanin helps us to absorb and scatter UV rays from the sun (protecting us from free radicals).

Speaking about the sun, the sun’s rays, known as ultraviolet radiation are of two types: They are UVA and UVB.

UVB radiation: (short wave ultraviolet that causes skin reddening and sunburn) burns the upper layers of our skin (the epidermis), causing sunburns.

UVA radiation: (long wave ultraviolet that passes through even glass windows) is what makes us tan (get darker). UVA rays penetrate to the lower layers of the epidermis, where they trigger these melanin producing cells (the melanocytes) to produce melanin.

UVA rays also act on the brain to cause an increased production of the hormone which would stimulate our body to cause increased production of melanin. All this melanin means, that the discoloration will not get any better.

So you see if you don’t block UV rays from getting to your skin; you’ll never get the results you are hoping for. This is where the Sunscreens come in.

What are Sunscreens?

Sunscreen is a cream, spray, lotion or gel that is used to protect your skin from the sun’s Ultraviolet rays. This lotion/cream absorbs or reflects part of the sun’s radiation and helps protect the skin against sunburn.

Image Credits: Instagram @charlottejcho

Tips to protect your skin from the sun includes:

  1. The sun is usually hotter around the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m, hence, you can chose to stay indoors at this period. If you cannot, Ensure to wear a sunscreen. If you want to have an idea of the best time to walk around, target the period when your shadow is longer than your height. (Still, you should use a sunscreen).
  2. choose sunscreen products that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you are dark or SPF of 30 if your skin is fair.
  3. Also find a product that would keep the pores on your skin clear to prevent development of pimples (acne). You would see “noncomedogenic” or “nonacnegenic” on the label of the sunscreen.
  4. Whenever you are around surfaces that reflects sunlight, such as water, or ice, use more sunscreen. Protect your face and eyes with a hat and sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.
  5. Ensure to find one that blocks both types of the sun’s ultraviolent rays. That is the UVA and UVB rays. To find this, Look on the body of the product for the words “UVA protection” or “broad spectrum protection”.
  6. Some medications, like those prescribed for pimples, can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. See your doctor if you take these medication, for more assistance of that. If you have pimples, read about How to improve your face here.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for ‘sun protection factor’. It is an indication written on the sunscreen product that explains the level of sunburn protection offered by the product. Higher SPF value gives better protection against sunburn.

What are the benefits of sunscreen?

Studies have revealed that there is a decreased incidence of skin cancer in persons that diligently wear sunscreen. People who use skincare products for their pimples (acne) like chemical exfoliants are advised to always use a sunscreen, because these products make their skins more sensitive to the sun’s rays.

How do I use a sunscreen?

For best results, you should wear a sunscreen about 15 minutes before going out in the sun. You should not mix your product with any body lotion or moisturizer. Finally, do not use the sprays on your face .

Do people with Black skin need sunscreen?

Sunscreens have benefits for both people with white or dark skins. This is more important especially around the hours of 10am-3pm when the sun is at its hottest.

Does sunscreen expire?

Just like every other manufactured product, the product also expires. Hence, ensure to check the pack of the product before you purchase.

Does sunscreen last all day?

No. Regardless of the SPF value of the product, it does not last all day. ideally, your sunscreen should be reapplied after every two hours. Even earlier than that if you are swimming or exercising, due to the product being washed/sweated off.

Can sunscreen clear previous sunburns?

The answer is no, although, some sunscreen products contains zinc oxide which could help with the swelling, due to its zinc-oxide contents.

Can sunscreen cause vitamin D deficiency?

No, Sunscreen does not make you to have vitamin D deficiency. however, you can always eat foods rich in vitamin D or see your doctor, if you are concerned about this.

Where can I buy sunscreen in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, you can find sunscreen products at your regular pharmacies and beauty care stores.

Did you learn something new? Let me know.

Take charge of your health and skin.

Your Skin Sensei,
Dr. HealthThenMore


  • Dr. Rebecca Omokaro (a.k.a Dr. HealthThenMore) is the founder of HealthThenMore, an online medical community for health professionals and co-founder of Progeny Cerebrum, a unique mentorship community for healthcare students and professionals. She is passionate about skin care and has invested years in studying how multiple skin care products work, having struggled with multiple skin breakouts as a teenager herself. As @dr.healththenmore, she teaches people how to care for their skins with natural and ethical skin care products as well as spread awareness of medical conditions that affect the skin. You can follow her on twitter on: @HealthThenMore

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