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Friday, 31 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Waiting Times

This post probably won't be suitable to all those who are impatient with their skincare routine, but if you're someone who wants to get the most out of your products, then stick around!

In your routine, usually the first thing you do once you're done cleansing is acid tone. And after you use your BHA or AHA, you quickly move on to your next product, usually a serum. However, if you're not in a rush to leave the house, then I'd highly suggest this one tip:

After using an acid toner, don't apply anything afterwards for at least 10-25 minutes. Now, hear me out. I know not everyone has the luxury of time or the patience for it. Though if it's in the evening, you really don't have much of an excuse. You can go watch an episode of Friends while you wait or have your dinner.

So here's the reason why you should wait:

Acid toners generally need a low Ph level to work efficiently, and when you put a serum or whatever product on straight afterwards, that product will more than likely have a much higher Ph and thus render the acid less effective. It will still work, but not as well. Therefore, giving your skin time to readjust its ph levels before moving on to the rest of your routine is very much advised. On average, it takes 30 minutes for an acid's ph to neutralize.

And if you're concerned about waiting in the morning before heading off to work or university, then my advice is to just go about getting ready while you wait. So cleanse, tone, then go have your morning tea or coffee, get dressed, pack up your things, and by the time you've done all that, enough time will have passed and you could quickly carry on with your routine.

By no means am I saying acids don't work at all if you don't give them waiting time, they just might not work as amazingly as they would with the time.

You will feel and see a difference if you implicate this slight change into your routine, I guarantee it.

I would also recommend maybe waiting a few minutes (5-10) with your serums, mainly to allow them to fully absorb properly without anything interfering.

This tip is definitely not for those with zero patience, but if you do have the patience, give it a shot! Make the most out of your products :).

Next time on The Skincare Guide: Tips You Probably Don't Follow

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Ingredients to Avoid Mixing Together

When it comes to mastering skincare, the best thing you can possibly do is simply become more aware. Become aware of product types, their functions, ingredients, etc. And one of the things to be aware of is the combination of certain products, specifically when you mix certain active ingredients. By no means does it all of a sudden make them toxic when combined, they just simply render themselves ineffective. Or in simpler terms: they cancel each other out and become useless. So here are three pairings that should be avoided if you want to achieve full effectiveness in your products:

BHA/AHA & Retinol - Acid toners (AHA &BHA - full post explanation here) should not be mixed together with retinol/retinoids (full post explanation here) because the acids can inactivate the retinol/retinoid. Mixing the two together actually diminishes the effectiveness of both ingredients. So what's the solution? Use your acid toner or any product that has an AHA or BHA in the mornings only, on days where you know you're going to use a retinol treatment at night. So just take out acid toners/all acids from your evening routine if you're using retinol or retinoid. And also be aware that some cleansers also contain AHA's/BHA's, including some well known products, like The Body Shop Nutriganics Softening Cleansing Gel. If so, just use a different cleanser if you're planning on using your retinol treatment afterwards.

Vitamin C & Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) - these two ingredients sadly also cancel each other out. So if you're using a Vitamin C serum and then apply a cream or serum or some other kind of product right afterwards that contains Niacinamide, then you're pretty much rendering both of them ineffective. Best to keep them apart. 

Vitamin C & Vitamin A - there are technically several products out there, that are formulated with both and work perfectly fine! This is not like mixing BHA/AHA and Retinol, where you really should just avoid all together. Vitamin C and Vitamin A simply work their best when used separately.

Like I said, mixing these pairings is not at all harmful. You're just not getting the most out of your money/products. 

I personally discovered these ill-fated pairings when one of my serums stopped working the way it use to. The change happened right after I had repurchased my acid toner and had began using it before applying the serum, which happened to contain retinol. When I took out the acid toner from my evening routine, the serum went back to giving me amazing results. So it's just a few little facts to keep in mind :).

And if you're ever unsure of what ingredients your product contains, you can easily check using this website:

Next time on The Skincare Guide: Waiting Times

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Retinol

Fun fact: did you know that our skin reaches maturity around the age of 21? Personally, I found this fact a little shocking, especially since our brains only reach maturity at age 25. Now, since I'm 21 myself, I've decided that the time to slowly integrate some Retinol into my routine has finally come. Before I go on about how I do this, let me quickly explain the basics.

What is Retinol?

A derivative of Vitamin A. As of now, it's considered to be the most powerful anti-aging ingredient. It has been proven several times in clinical tests to reduce wrinkles/signs of aging, tighten pores, prevent and reverse UVA/B damage, increase blood flow in skin, fight acne, increase cell turnover, boost your collagen and even skin tone. Pretty amazing right?

However, one needs to be extremely careful with Retinol. It's a powerful active for a reason and can very easily be overdone. There are usually side effects to using it, the mains ones being: redness, irritation, and dry skin- potentially peeling. 

Good news is that this can be mainly avoided or at least reduced if you simply start out slow. If you are thinking about beginning the use of Retinol, here's a guide on usage that has worked for me. I've had no unpleasant side effects so far thanks to this guide by FutureDerm, apart from a slight increase in dryness, which can't be avoided and I easily deal with by simply upping my moisturizing products. Your skin essentially needs to build up a tolerance towards it and so you slowly work your way up in terms of concentration and usage frequency. So word of caution here - using more won't give you better results, it will just burn your face off :P. Less really is more when it comes to Retinol. A pea-size is all you need.

Retinol has to have a minimum concentration of 0.1% to 0.3% in order to be effective. Anything less won't do anything. The highest concentration available is 1%.

Should I start using Retinol?

If you're 21 or above and you don't want your face to resemble a prune, yes! Or like me, you start noticing some fine lines appearing and want them vanquished. Think of it as the war on wrinkles. If you want to win, you better arm up with some big guns.

Important things to know when applying Retinol:

- apply it in the evenings not mornings; the sun breaks it down and thus leaves it ineffective
- don't use an acid toner (AHA/BHA) on the evening you use your retinol, the combination of the two renders the retinol useless and ineffective. You can still use your toner in the morning, just not in your evening routine.
- apply your retinol treatment after cleansing
-wait 1 hour before applying any other products (serums, moisturizers), it's much more effective this way if the skin is dry with no product.
- you can apply it everywhere on your face, except for your eye contour/crease and under your eyebrow (read the instructions for your specific product).
- wear sunscreen the morning after (though you should be wearing it everyday regardless *cough*), retinol makes your skin more photosensitive/vulnerable to sun rays and damage
- if you have a strong reaction (redness, irritated skin), then take a break from it. Let your skin heal completely and then try again more slowly, i.e. use it less often.
- be consistent, don't take long breaks, like several weeks or months. It takes 8-10 weeks before you even begin to see results, so stay persistent!

And to clear up some terminology confusion that you might experience when researching retinol:

There are different forms of Vitamin A, and are listed in terms of concentration/strength

1) Retinoids: these are the strongest forms of Vitamin A. They require a prescription from a doctor and involve more of the side effects since they are stronger and thus harsher on the skin.
2) Retinol: a non-prescription form of Retinoid, not as intense as Retinoids but still powerful nonetheless with fewer side effects.
3) Retinyl Palmitate: weakest form of Vitamin A. Doesn't work very well, though still has some effect.

Another thing to keep in mind: they all vary between each other in terms of concentration/strength, they don't transfer over. For example 1.0% Retinol equals to 0.05 Tretinoin (a type of prescription retinoid).

Product Recommendations (all are linked):

A good starting-off, easing into product - La Roche Posay Redermic [R] Dermatalogical Anti-Wrinkle Treatment - Intense (0.3% Retinol). Pictured at the top. Tends to go on sale often on FeelUnique.

Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment ($55)

Next time on The Skincare Guide: Ingredients to Avoid Mixing Together

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Korean Skincare

Once a person discovers korean skincare, they get sucked into this vortex of brands and products and routines and are never to be seen again! Well, ok, that's not quite true, but you get the idea. South Korea takes skincare to a whole new level. Formulations wise, they are years ahead of the West. and unlike the West, koreans actually spend more money on skincare rather than cosmetics like westerners do. They believe that if you have good skin, the less makeup you need. I very much agree with this mentality. However, their main motto comes down to this: layering. Koreans take layering skincare products to the extreme (in a good way).

The West preaches this kind of routine: Cleanse, Tone, Moisturize. Thanks to several skincare specialists online, we now know this is simply not enough. It's now: 1st cleanse, 2nd cleanse, acid tone, serum, moisturize. So that accounts for 5 steps in total. Well, in Korea they follow a 10 (sometimes 11) step routine... It looks something like this:

1) Remove Makeup aka 1st Cleanse - this is typically done with an oil cleanser.
2) Cleanse the skin aka 2nd Cleanse - this is usually done with a foaming cleanser (which I've discussed in this post here, that this only does damage to your skin) or a cleansing cream. 
3) Exfoliate - usually done with a scrub. Again, I'm not a fan of scrubs. Acid toners (post detailing it here) do a much better job and don't aggravate the skin like most harsh scrubs do.
4) Tone - usually a hydrating toner.
5) Essence - an essence is essentially a less intense/milder form of a serum, packed with some active ingredients 
6) Serum - a much more concentrated form of an essence, contains active ingredients. There are also products called "Ampoule", which claim to be an even stronger version of a serum (supposedly). 
7) Sheet Mask - contains some nice ingredients and are moisturizing. Not necessarily used every day.
8) Eye Cream 
9) Emulsion - a light weight moisturizer
10) Cream - a night time moisturizer (heavier)

*11) Sunscreen - if day time. If night time then a sleeping moisturizing mask to lock in all moisture

Like with all things you read online, you need to take things with a pinch of salt. There are some things that are great about this kind of routine, and there are some things that are best to forego. Of course, please do your own research before you decide on anything. Don't instantly assert to follow a korean skincare routine or Paula's choice's advice as if it were the bible (biggest pet peeve right now that I'm seeing online). You can pick and choose bits that you like and don't like. You don't have to 100% agree with one form of skincare. 

For example, I love that the Korean Routine preaches double cleansing, but I'm against the use of foaming cleansers. I'm also against the use of facial scrubs, I believe they're too strong and abrasive for our delicate skin. The rest I completely agree with, especially that they sun protection seriously. Sure, some steps might be unnecessary, like Sheet Masks or Essences but they certainly don't do any harm. In fact, layering products so far has only given me amazing results! The more the merrier really. Is it a faff though? It can be to some. 

Now, here are some reasons as to why you should consider giving korean skincare products a go:

1) They're cheaper - this is due to the intense competition between korean companies. They have way more brands than we do (like x 5), so in order to stay competitive among each other, they bring the prices down (yay!). 

2) Their ingredients are out of this world - they have been reported to be 5-10 years ahead of us westerners in terms of science in their formulations. Koreans are constantly trying to discover new amazing ingredients and they put them to use a lot faster than they would able to in the west due to less red tape. For example: snail mucin (an amazing healing agent), bee venom (increases production of collagen and reduces lines), stem cells, etc. 

3) Variety - again, due to the endless amount of brands. 

4) You will see results 

P.S. don't be scared when you see the term "whitening" on some their products. It doesn't actually whiten your skin, it means brightening/skin tone evening :).

If you're interested in giving some a go, I use this website for basically all of my purchases: 

The owner is a sweetheart, you get free-worldwide shipping (!!), AND you receive a ton of samples and full-sized freebies (as pictured above with my latest haul ^^). 

Next time on the Skincare Guide: Retinol

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Ingredients to Avoid

Not all ingredients in products are actually good for our skin, so I thought I'd explain some of the big red flags in skincare that are for the most part best to avoid. I'll start off with the evilest and make my way down from there.

1) Sodium Laureth Sulfate & Sodium Lauryl Suflate or SLS for short: to put it point blank, this is a detergent. It's what creates the the foam and bubbles in foaming cleansers. It's also in shampoos, soaps, bubble bath, etc. Now needless to say if you've already read my Cleansing Properly post (you can read that here), you'll know why you should avoid this kind of ingredient." It's actually a well known skin irritant, to the point where it's used as model irritant in dermatological studies. 

“[Sodium lauryl sulfate] is such a consistent irritator for skin with an impaired barrier that it is actually used in ‘challenge patch tests’ to evaluate the barrier function of skin…it strips the natural lipids from the skin, disrupting the barrier and rendering it more susceptible to external irritants." -Dr. Leslie Baumann’s, Cosmetic Dermatology.

So my advice? Avoid this ingredient like the plague (at least for your skin, not your kitchen dishes :P). I'd highly suggest going SLS free in your shampoo and shower gel too if possible. I noticed a huge difference when I switched shampoos, specifically 50% less hair fallout and my hair was not as dry. If you want SLS free shampoo, I'd recommend Marc Anthony (if you're in Canada) and the L'oreal Professional Line internationally, they have a few good SLS free shampoos. And for body wash and/or hand soap - any soap/showergel from Dr. Bronner is a good one. 

2) Alcohol, Alcohol Denat, Isopropyl Alcohol, and Ethanol: this one is to be proceeded with caution. Rule of thumb: if it's in the top 10 ingredients on the ingredient list, avoid. If it's near the bottom of the ingredient list - there's very little of it in the formula, so it's fine. These are all drying alcohols. If  used in high concentration, they will dry out your skin. If there's not too much of it/ it's well formulated, it will aid in the absorption of skincare actives. 
Also, quick note: not all forms of alcohol are drying! There are also fatty alcohols, such as cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol. They are used to thicken formulas and add slip to the product and are harmless.

3) Mineral Oil (listed as/also known as - liquid paraffin, pariffinum liquidum, and liquid petroleum in ingredient lists): this is a very controversial ingredient in the skincare world right now. There are two sides to the argument: the first side says it's totally fine and does a good job at moisturizing the skin, whereas the other half says it just sits on top of the skin and clogs your pores. I'm on the latter side. I did an experiment where I went mineral oil free for a good few months, and my skin thanked me for it! I used to get little white heads on my cheeks, forehead, and nose, and when I gave up the ingredient they went away forever. Also reduced blackheads.

 Mineral oil works by coating the skin, rather than being absorbed. It's an incredibly cheap ingredient (so if it's in your super expensive moisturizer - you're being ripped off big time) that is derived from petroleum—as a by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline.

That being said, some people don't break out from mineral oil and swear it does wonders for their dry skin. My advice? Try going mineral oil free for a good 2 months and see if you notice a difference. But overall, I would still say avoid.

4) Oxybenzone: I mentioned this already in my sunscreen/sunprotection post (here), but I'll just quickly repeat myself. It's a form of chemical sunscreen that is officially known as a hormone disruptor, avoid at all costs! Unfortunately, several well-known brands still use this ingredient.

If you have any questions on the safety of other ingredients that weren't mentioned, leave a comment down below! :)

Next time on the Skincare Guide: Korean Skincare

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Serums

Honestly, I've been dreading writing this post. Mainly because it's probably one of the most complicated topics to explain, no doubt due to simply the vast variety you have when it comes to serums. So I will carry on and tread lightly...

So what are serums?

Serums are the superheroes in skincare. They're the ones that really throw in a punch. Or to put it in skincare terms, this is where all your active ingredients live. Because of this fact, it deems serums to be the one kind of product where you really do need to splash on and bite the bullet at the cash register. But I promise you, you will see results with them. Not necessarily overnight (though some of those do exist), but definitely over time. For every other kind of product in your routine, you can find a cheap alternative (e.g. cleansers, moisturizers) because they do easy, straightforward jobs, like clean and moisturize, which usually involve inexpensive ingredients that are easy to formulate and manufacture. Serums tend to involve a lot of research and testing, such as clinical studies.

Sadly, cheap serums are therefore hard to come by, but the powerful ingredients in them really do make them worth it. Now without further ado, let's get into the different kinds of serums.

1) Antioxidant/Vitamin C Serums

These ones are multi-purpose. Their functions are:

brightening - so fading acne scars and sun damage
anti-aging - vitamin c increases the production of collagen (= firmer skin) and cell turnover.
boosts your skin's defence against UV damage, as well as pollution
glow - will get rid of the appearance of dull skin

Needless to say, a good all-rounder! However, this serum is mainly used for fading acne scars and hyper pigmentation. Its anti-aging strength isn't the strongest one out there.

2) Anti-Aging/ Preventative Serums -& usually also known as night time serums

These ones work by repairing your skin and preventing aging. They usually contain vitamin A (the ultimate anti-aging ingredient), and are recommended to be used only at night because of this, since it makes your skin photosensitive aka more sensitive to the sun/light. So if you are using this kind of serum, be sure to wear sunscreen during the day if you aren't already (naughty!). A lot of these serums also contain antioxidants, sometimes Niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3 that is anti-aging, brightening, redness reducing, acne healing), and occasionally peptides (another famous anti-aging ingredient).


prevent wrinkles
repair skin
lighten hyper pigmentation and/or marks left from spots & even-out skin tone

3) Hydrating Serums

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory... if you have dry skin or (yes there's a difference) dehydrated skin, which 99% of us have, then add yourself a boost of moisture with a hydrating serum. They really do make a difference!

My tips on serums if you're on a tight budget:

- spend less on your other skincare products (e.g. cleanser, moisturizer). There are many good, cheap alternatives.
- if available, buy mini's. Not all brands do them, but quite a few in Sephora do mini starter kits, such as Ole Henriksen.
- try out serums by korean brands, they are years ahead of western companies in terms of science and usually half the price due to fierce competition and vast amount of brands. A good brand to start off with is Missha.
- take note of how much you're actually getting from the product, as in the quantity, e.g. 15ml, 30ml, 50ml, 75ml etc. Sometimes it may seem expensive but then when you compare how much more you're getting with that price compared to other serums/brands, it may turn out to be cheaper.
Example: the Missha Time Revolution serum (a known dupe for the Estee Lauder serum) is $50/50ml, whereas Estee Lauder's is $62/30ml. So Missha's is $1 per ml, and EL's is roughly $2 per ml. So with Missha, you're getting more for your money.

*takes deep calming breath*...finally on to some recommendations! (all recommendations are linked)

Antioxidant Serums: 

Side note: this serum is very effective, but could be drying to some due to it's alcohol content (which is used in some formulations to allow the serum to be absorbed better and faster). If so, use every other day rather than daily, or use a hydrating serum afterwards.

Anti-Aging Serums: 

Hydrating Serums: 

Next time on the Skincare Guide: Ingredients to Avoid

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Toners

This topic tends to have a bad rep when it comes to skincare. That's mainly down to how western companies have labelled and marketed toners. 

According to western companies, toners are there to remove the last remains of your makeup (*cough* that's your cleanser's job, and if it's not doing the job, then you need a new cleanser *cough*), kill bacteria with an incredibly high alcohol content *cringe*, and shrink your pores.

Ok, now let me explain what your toner actually SHOULD be doing. 

1) Exfoliate: I would go as far as to say that this is the main purpose of a toner. These days, thanks to the beloved Caroline Hirons, they are now usually referred to as Acid Toners. Toners use a percentage of an acid to chemically exfoliate your skin. Think of it as your toner eating up all the dead skin cells, leaving fresh new skin. This is a far superior method of exfoliation, especially when compared to physical exfoliation (aka scrubs). Scrubs are 90% of the time too harsh for our skin, and even has the capabilities of irritating it and giving us broken capillaries. 

There are 2 kinds of chemical exfoliant toners: AHA's (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHA's (beta hydroxy acid). The most common types of AHA's are Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, and Citric Acid, and for BHA's it's Salicylic Acid. BHA's are generally preferred for people with problematic skin, and AHA's for people with sun damage and dry skin. However, they both work similarly and don't differ significantly. They both do the same job. Personally, I like and use both. Though I ever so slightly prefer AHA. However, some people with sensitive skin sometimes find that AHA's can be too harsh for their skin, so if you're one of them then just stick to BHA's. 

Perks of using a chemical exfoliant toner: prevents and helps clear up break outs, helps other products (like serums) penetrate better, quickens the rate of cell turnover, decreases fine lines, and potentially stimulates collagen production.

2) Hydrate: ironic since your old school toners are notorious for drying out your skin. There are also now toners that add some moisture to your skin, as well as balance the ph level.

The number one thing to avoid when looking for a new toner: alcohol or alcohol denat. Old school toners are incredibly high in alcohol, usually even the second ingredient on the list. Now, would you apply Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol all over your face? No?? Then don't use these kind of toners!! A famous example of these kind of horrible products would be Clinique's Clarifying Lotion (step #2 in their well-known 3 step system). Products like these WILL ruin your skin. If your skin is feeling tight and dry after using it, or even burning, that does not mean it's working! That means it's harming your skin. Case closed.

And if you use these kind of toners because you have oily skin, and you like them because they remove all oils from your face, you're essentially just fighting fire with fire. Constantly stripping all oils from your face will only drive your skin into overdrive as it tries extra hard to reproduce those oils that you just stripped, i.e. your skin will only become oilier in the long-run. 

Now that we've cleared that all up, here are some product recommendations! all recommendations are linked.

2) Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion ($16), Side Note: though it's by Clinique, this toner of theirs is 100% alcohol-free! it's a very mild BHA toner.

3) First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads ($20 for mini, $30 for full size), AHA toner.

Next time on the Skincare Guide: Serums

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: Cleansing Properly

To follow up with yesterday's post on sunscreen, I thought naturally the next guide would have to be on cleansing, specifically cleansing properly. A lot of people tend to complain that sunscreen and occasionally makeup breaks them out. However, most of the time it's actually the fact that they weren't removing it properly that broke them out. So let me introduce you to your new best friend: double cleansing.

That's right. You should be cleansing twice, not just once. The first time to remove makeup & sunscreen, and the second time to actually cleanse the skin itself. I promise, you will notice a huge difference in your skin once you implement this method.

There are two exceptions for when you don't need to double cleanse: mornings and days when you don't wear any makeup and/or sunscreen. Now, before we move on to what kind of cleansers you should be using, let's first quickly go over what you shouldn't be using.

The no-no's when it comes to cleansing your face: face wipes and foaming cleansers. The ingredients in face wipes are really not something you want to be putting on your face. They're drying and all you do is move around the dirt on your face with it. I know they seem like the best option for lazy evenings, but do your skin a favour: get off the couch and go cleanse it properly!

Foaming cleansers are the ultimate nightmare for your skin. They work by stripping your skin completely, including the natural oils that actually protect your skin, and thus leave it feeling like a desert. They also really mess with your skin's ph levels, which will in turn make your other products work inefficiently, as well as make your skin very sensitive. Your skin is not meant to feel squeaky clean and tight after you cleanse, or so dry that you bolt for your moisturizer. Funny enough, you don't actually end up squeaky clean because foaming cleansers use a surfactant which turns your skin into alkaline and alkaline skin is a magnet for bacteria. Oh the irony... 
If anything, a good cleanser should make your skin feel nourished. So if you ever come across a cleanser that says foaming, drop the product and run. I mean, you wouldn't use a bar of soap on your face right? Well, then same goes for foaming cleansers.

Now, on to the right sort of cleansers: oil, balm, and milk. Nothing breaks down makeup (especially waterproof) and sunscreen better than oils. Seriously, there's a reason why stage actors will use things like olive oil to remove their heavy costume makeup. It works! They also do an amazing job of picking up dirt and thus make it easier to wash it off. And the best part: they leave your skin feeling softer and moisturized, rather than stripped. And don't worry, oil cleansers are suitable for ALL skin types, INCLUDING oily/combination (which I happen to be). 

- (all recommendations are linked. $ stands for cheap, $$ stands for very affordable, $$$ stands for pricy, $$$$ stands for expensive)

So let's wrap things up with a few recommendations. For your 1st cleanse (i.e. for removing makeup & SPF): The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Oil ($), Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil (or balm if you prefer)($$), Ole Henriksen Melting Cleanser ($$$), Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel ($$$),  Emma Hardie Cleansing Balm ($$$$)

Next time on the Skincare Guide: Toners

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Skincare Guide: How to Find the Perfect Sunscreen

Sun protection - a much more complicated subject than most realize. To the point that this post ended up being much longer than I had intended. Due to the vast amount of factors to consider when looking for a sunscreen, I will try my best to break it down for you by answering some questions. 

Question #1: Why do I need to wear sunscreen?

Answer: whenever I get this question, my mind instantly rushes to this image. This was all I needed to motivate me to wear sunscreen everyday. This is the image of a 69 year old male truck driver. As you may have realized, drivers are generally exposed to the sun mainly on one side. Can you guess which one from this picture? The difference here is insane, in my opinion. This is what UVA rays do to your skin, which by the way, windows do not block out...

Question #2: Do I need to wear sunscreen everyday? 

Answer: yes. Regardless of the weather, season (UVA rays are constant year round, clouds or no clouds), or whether you're indoors or not (unless your house has no windows :P). Of course, if you're not going to be sitting in front of a window for most of your day then you can go without it. However, there's no exception if you are going outside.

Question #3: What's the difference between UVB and UVA rays?

Answer: in simplest terms, UVB rays are what burn you and UVA rays are what age you. Both are equally capable of causing skin cancer. UVB rays burn the skin surface, whereas UVA rays penetrate very deep into the dermis (the thickest layer of your skin), so you don't really see the damage immediately like you do with UVB. However, sun exposure accounts for 80% of premature aging. So it's a big deal!

Question #4: What does SPF stand for?

Answer: sun protection factor. But what most people don't know is that SPF is only in regards to protection against UVB rays, not UVA rays. UVA protection is symbolized by the symbol +. Lowest protection being + and highest ++++. So if your sunscreen or makeup, such as foundation, says it has an SPF 15 (which by the way is waaay too low), then it means it's only protecting you from UVB rays, not UVA. Generally, you want to aim for a protection of SPF 30 - 50, with at least +++.

Question #5: What ingredients should I look out for/want in my sunscreen?

Answer: believe it or not, some are more effective than others. There are also 2 different kinds: physical (also known as mineral) and chemical. Chemical works by absorbing the UV rays, while physical reflects the rays off the skin. Personally, I prefer physical because it's non-irritating (some people might be sensitive to chemical sunscreen), but I'd happily use chemical as well if it has decent protection. However, something to keep in mind: there are only 17 approved chemical ingredients in the US and Canada, and only about 7 of them are regularly used in products, whereas the European Union has 27 approved ingredients. So you will see a big difference in sun screen ranges between the EU and North America, with the EU having the better and bigger selection.
There are two forms of physical sunscreen: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. Titanium Dioxide blocks out all UVB rays, but only half of UVA rays, whereas Zinc Oxide blocks out both completely. So naturally, I would suggest finding a sunscreen that's high in Zinc Oxide. 

Question #6: What ingredients should I avoid in my sunscreen?

perfect example of a sunscreen to avoid (a La-Roche Posay sunscreen ingredients list)

Answer: Oxybenzone - a form of chemical sunscreen that is officially known as a hormone disruptor, avoid at all costs! Several well-known brands still use this ingredient, such as Neutrogenia

Alcohol: generally, alcohol is known for irritating and drying out your skin. If it's in the top 10 ingredients on the list, put down the product and walk away. Unfortunately, this is incredibly common in most sunscreens. If, however, it's at the very bottom of the list, then the amount in the formula is scarce and therefore perfectly fine to use. 

Alcohol Denat: same as alcohol. Avoid unless at the bottom of the list. 

Mineral Oil (usually listed as paraffinum liquidum): a cheap moisturizing ingredient known for clogging up pores. Yuck.

Question #7: Is tanning safe as long as I don't get a sunburn?

Answer: NOOOOO. There is no such thing as a safe tan!! Having a tan in itself is a sign of DNA damage in the skin. So you really have only two options then: either embrace your paleness or use fake tan. 

Question #8: Is the SPF in my makeup or moisturizer enough to protect me or should I always use a separate sunscreen? 

Answer: NOPE. 1) Putting makeup on top of a moisturizer with SPF reduces the effectiveness by half. 2)You don't put enough foundation on your face to protect your skin as you would with a separate sunscreen. Rule of thumb is to apply at least 1/4 of a teaspoon of sunscreen onto your face, so you do need to be liberal. And if you did apply that much foundation, my god! Imagine the cake face :P. Also foundations are designed to do the job of makeup, not skincare. 

Question #9: Are spray sunscreens safe to use?

Answer: this one bummed me out too (everybody loves the conveniency), but sadly they really do not provide you with much protection. You're simply not applying as much as you would with a lotion. Sprays actually give you a quarter of the protection of what they promise, so if you're applying an SPF 50 spray, then you're only really getting SPF 12. For further details, you can check out this post by Future Derm:

Question #10: But I don't like the feel of sunscreen

Answer: obviously that's not so much a question but a phrase that is uttered very often. But don't fret, there's good news! There are plenty of companies with brilliantly formulated sunscreens that when applied, feel like luxurious moisturizers and even come with some nice skincare ingredients. There's no need to buy the icky heavy stuff anymore. Science and formulations have come a long way since our childhoods spent at the beach. You simply have to know which ones to get. Which leads us to....

Recommendations for Sunscreens: 

(all recommendations are linked. $ stands for cheap, $$ stands for very affordable, $$$ stands for pricy, $$$$ stands for expensive)

Sadly, I have only found one single decent sunscreen by a western company, but luckily for us Asia (especially Korea) produce brilliant sunscreens. 

And that wraps up the sun protection post! 
Next time on The Skincare Guide: Cleansing Properly