Skin + Hair Basics

Why SPF Is Important: Sun Exposure and Its Toll on Skin

If you’re curious why SPF is important, then consider the DNA-mutating damage and age-accelerating risks of sun exposure. Here’s a guide to proper SPF use.
Do I need to wear sunscreen everyday

Wearing sunscreen every day should be like taking a daily multivitamin: You might not experience the exact benefits of this habit on every given day, but you’ll be much better off in the long term. And yes, you need to wear SPF every day of the year, because UV rays don’t take a day off; they can penetrate clouds, and even windows. (So keep that SPF moisturizer ready for regular reapplication if you work near a window.)

To better understand why SPF is so imperative, let’s look at how sun exposure damages skin in the first place.

How Sun Exposure Damages Skin (UV Rays Explained)

When it comes to sun protection, there's a lot of acronyms and terminology, so let's start by breaking that down. What are UV rays, you ask? These invisible ‘ultraviolet’ rays exist in three different wavelengths (UVA, UVB, and UVC), although only UVA and UVB rays are long enough to penetrate the ozone layer. (So we don’t really discuss them in this conversation about sun protection.) 

Think of UV ray length as a measure of how long each wave takes to “rise and fall”. So a long ray (a UVA ray, for example) has the ability to carefully maneuver into deeper layers of your skin, versus shorter (and more abruptly angled) rays like UVB rays. This is why the super short UVC rays don’t enter the atmosphere; they rise and fall so quickly that they just deflect right away.

UVA Rays vs. UVB Rays

Think A for Aging, and B for Burns:

UVA rays are the longest of this trio of UV rays, which allows them to penetrate deep into the skin and cause ‘photoaging’. This is what we refer to when we say that the sun ‘ages’ your skin—think wrinkles, dark spots, rough patches, discoloration, dehydration, and more. 

UVB rays have a shorter wavelength than UVA rays, and instead burn the surface of the skin and can lead to skin cancer.

Gradual Sun Exposure vs. Daily Damage

Think of daily SPF use as your steady defense against UV rays. If you size up two people in their 60s or 70s, you’ll be able to tell which of those individuals was better at protecting their skin from sun damage throughout their life. (It is arguably why, over the last few decades, “old people” look a lot younger than before. We’re all aging better, see, and SPF use is a big part of that.)

This incremental protection is your single best defense against the damaging effects of sun exposure—those little moments where you walk to the store, or water the plants, or fill up the gas tank. That’s where a standard SPF moisturizer (like Cardon’s SPF 30 hydrator) will cover your key bases without adding a step to your daily grooming routine.

But you also need to double down on protection when you sprawl out in the sun for long periods of time. That’s where a proper sunscreen will be more imperative, especially in preventing sunburns. Be sure to reapply every two hours, or quickly after swimming and sweating. The more effort you put into shielding sun (consider even tucking yourself away under a beach umbrella), the less likely it is you sprout an odd looking mole or a sprawl of hyperpigmentation later on. Not to mention, you’ll avoid the agony of a sunburn, too.

How SPF Actually Works

What ‘SPF’ Measures

SPF is shorthand for ‘sun protection factor’, and it indicates a product’s level of defense against UVB rays. The SPF number pertains to the protection level against UVB rays: An SPF 15 would protect you 15 times longer from sunburn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. An SPF 30 would protect you 30 times longer from burn.

Another way to look at the SPF number is in terms of how much protection the product provides at any given moment. Unfortunately, the numbers can be deceiving: For example, SPF 30 provides defense from 97% of the sun’s UV-B rays, while SPF 15 only shields from 93% of UV-Brays. So, just because SPF 30 is double SPF 15 on the UVB duration-shielding scale, doesn’t mean it is doubly defensive overall.

The extra 4% protection (97% vs 93%) can make a huge difference in terms of sunburn and photoaging. If you want to go even higher than 97% coverage with SPF 30, you can: An SPF 50 provides 98% coverage, and SPF 100 provides 99% coverage. Most dermatologists benchmark SPF 30 as the minimum you should apply, in order to avoid burn and photoaging.

Chemical vs. Mineral Options

There are two different types of sunscreen filters: mineral and chemical. Mineral sunscreens (typically zinc or titanium dioxide) will sit atop the skin to deflect UV rays, while chemical filters will soak into the skin. Common ones include avobenzone, homosalate, and octyl salicylate. They absorb and neutralize rays to prevent any damage to the skin.

Usually it’s a matter of preference as to which ones you wear. Mineral sunscreens sometimes leave a white cast on skin. Chemical ones can often wear lighter, especially if they are oil free. Cardon’s facial moisturizer with SPF uses chemical filters in an oil-free formula to guarantee light wear.

An award-winning, water-based formula that's so lightweight, you'll forget it's there. Paraben-free, sulfate-free, silicone-free, and reef-safe. SHOP SUNSCREEN

Daily SPF + Moisturizer


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How to Help Skin Recover After Sun Exposure

If your skin is sunburnt, then obviously you need to avoid additional sun exposure, prioritize anti-inflammatories, and stay hydrated until you recover. Ouch! But you’re not the only person who needs to recover from a day under the sun; even the un-burnt individuals should have a recovery routine to help cushion skin from a day of UV exposure. 

For this, prioritize anti-inflammatory ingredients in a lightweight, ultra hydrating product. Might we suggest cactus extract, a hero ingredient across Cardon’s product assortment? This supremely hydrating and anti-inflammatory ingredient is also central to our Hydro Boost Gel Moisturizer, alongside soothing niacinamide and restorative rosehip oil. Together they help restore skin’s moisture levels and reinforce its barrier functions, while neutralizing any redness and swelling due to the sun exposure.

SPF Best Practices

Here are a few general rules around proper sun protection and wearing SPF:

Don’t apply body SPF to the face: With so many sunscreens out there specifically made for the face, it’s smart to keep separate products for your head and body. That’s because many sunscreens for the body are comedogenic, meaning they clog pores on the face and lead to breakouts, not to mention they feel sticky, greasier, and gross. The skin on your face is more sensitive and thinner than your body, so look for products that are specifically formulated for your money maker. Pro-tip: Look for 2-in-1 products that combine a moisturizer with SPF to hydration and protection.

How much sunscreen to use: The level of sun protection is negligible if you apply only a thin layer to the skin. Start by squeezing out a nickel-sized amount of SPF on your hand. Dab small amounts all over your face and neck for even coverage, and then rub it in. Don't rub it in your hands and then apply it to your face; you won't get full protection because a lot will get absorbed into your hands. For your body, the recommended amount of coverage is around two shot glasses' worth of sunscreen. Bottom line: Don’t be shy when it comes to sun protection, you can't really overdo it.

Apply 15-20 minutes before sun exposure: Your skin isn’t necessarily shielded the second you apply SPF. It takes time to absorb into the skin, so it’s wise to give it a buffer to do so. It's recommended by the FDA and dermatologists that you reapply SPF every two hours in order to maintain constant protection from UV rays.

Apply for indoor use, too: Because those invisible, snakelike UVA rays can permeate glass, it’s still important to wear SPF indoors—particularly if you sit near a window. (Have you ever seen that image of a truck driver who has severe sun damage on the left side of his face, but not the right? That’s because he spent a career with one half of his face exposed through the window. Google it if you want a shock—and let it sit in your memory to ensure you wear SPF daily, starting now.complete the routine

End your day with a gentle deep-cleansing face wash to remove the dirt, sweat, and pollution from the day.

You don’t need SPF when you sleep, so swap out the daytime SPF moisturizer for a recovery-focused night hydrator, which will help reverse any wear the skin experienced that day, and give your nighttime cellular regeneration a big boost. Cardon’s gel moisturizer was formulated with all of this in mind, as a good complement to the SPF moisturizer’s daytime wear.

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