Sun Protection 101: Essential Tips


Medically Reviewed by Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen

MBBS MRCP (UK) FAMS (Dermatology)

Sun Protection 101: Essential Tips

Why Sun Protection Is Important

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be harmful and pose a significant threat to skin health, as they can lead to various skin issues and long-term damage.

The most serious of these is the increased risk of skin cancer, which is dangerous and can be life-threatening if not diagnosed early. Excessive sun exposure can also cause sunburn, which can range from mild redness and discomfort to severe blisters and skin peeling.

Premature ageing (photoaging) of the skin is another consequence of repeated sun exposure, characterized by wrinkles and loss of elasticity. This is caused by the breakdown of collagen and other structural components of the skin.

Excessive exposure to UV rays can also suppress the immune system, reducing the skin’s ability to protect against various pathogens and potentially leading to an increased risk of infectious diseases.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

Applying sunscreen is the first step to effective sun protection. The effectiveness of sunscreen depends on various factors, including its ingredients, Sun Protection Factor (SPF), and spectrum of coverage.

In general, we should be looking for a sunscreen which is “broad spectrum” and has a minimum of SPF 30. SPF 30 means that the sunscreen blocks approximately 97% of UVB rays, and higher SPF values provide slightly more protection.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are recommended by dermatologists as they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and contribute to premature ageing and skin cancer, while UVB rays cause sunburn.

There are two types of sunscreens; namely mineral and chemical sunscreens. Mineral (physical) sunscreens work by forming a physical barrier on the skin against UV rays, and contain ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens contain chemical filters that absorb UV radiation. The choice between the two depends on the individual. Some people prefer mineral sunscreens because the ingredients are less likely to cause sensitivity or irritation. Others prefer chemical sunscreens because they are usually lighter in formulation and easier to apply.

Apply sunscreen generously and evenly to all exposed skin, and reapply at least every two hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Always check the expiration date on sunscreen, as expired products lose their efficacy over time.

Sun Safety for Different Skin Tones

Different skin types react differently to various types of sunscreen.

Fair Skin: Individuals with fair skin that burns easily and rarely tans should use a high-SPF sunscreen, preferably SPF 50 or higher. They should reapply sunscreen more frequently and seek shade during peak sun hours. Protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats are particularly important for this skin type.

Medium Skin: Those with medium skin that tans more easily than burning should still use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. While they might not burn as quickly, they are still at risk of UV damage and skin cancer.

Dark skin: Dark skin has more melanin, which provides some natural protection against sunburn but is still vulnerable to UV damage and skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher is recommended, along with other sun protection measures.

Specialised Sunscreens for Skin Conditions

For sensitive skin, mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are less likely to irritate the skin. Fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products are also advisable. Individuals with oily or acne-prone skin should opt for sunscreens that are oil-free and non-comedogenic so that they won’t block pores. Gel-based or water-based sunscreens are a good option.

For older adults, who may have more fragile skin, using a moisturizing sunscreen can provide both UV protection and hydration. Children’s skin is more sensitive than adult skin and requires sunscreens specifically formulated for children, usually free of harsh chemicals and fragrances.

Protective Clothing and Accessories

Clothing is the first line of defence against UV radiation. Long-sleeved shirts and long trousers made from tightly woven fabric offer significant protection, by minimising the skin’s exposure to the sun. Wearing hats that shade the face, neck, and ears also provides comprehensive coverage. For eye protection, use sunglasses to safeguard the eyes and the delicate skin around them.

Specialized sun-protective clothing and swimwear are now trending, designed to cater to various outdoor activities. These are crafted from UPF-rated fabric, offering enhanced protection without compromising comfort, allowing individuals to enjoy the outdoors without compromising their skin’s health.

Sun Avoidance

Try to limit your sun exposure during the peak hours of UV intensity, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest and pose the highest risk of sunburn and skin damage. If possible, plan outdoor activities earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun’s intensity is lower.

A simple way to gauge the sun’s intensity is by using the shadow rule. If your shadow is shorter than you are, it means the sun is high in the sky, and UV radiation is at its peak. When your shadow is longer than you are, it indicates that the sun is lower in the sky, and UV radiation is less intense.

Sun Protection Myths and Misconceptions

Myth: Sunscreen is only needed on sunny days.
Fact: UV rays can penetrate clouds; therefore, sunscreen is necessary even on overcast days.

Myth: Darker skin doesn’t need sunscreen.
Fact: While darker skin tones have more melanin, which offers some protection, they can still burn and are susceptible to UV damage and skin cancer.

Myth: Sunscreen lasts all day once applied.
Fact: Once applied, sunscreen does not last all day either. It needs to be reapplied every two hours, more often if swimming or sweating. Water-resistant sunscreens also need reapplication after water exposure for it to be effective again.


Sun protection is an often overlooked aspect of skincare and can prevent skin damage while reducing the risk of skin cancer. By integrating these sun protection measures into daily routines, you can reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

Related Articles

view ALL

Skincare tips

Skincare Tips For Tropical Weather

A balanced diet along with the use of nutrient-rich skincare products, can help enhance the skin's resilience and appearance in tropical weather conditions. Read on to learn more about the best skincare tips for tropical weather.


Skincare tips

Back-to-School Skincare: Acne Treatment for Teens and Young Adults

Now that teens and young adults are back to school, managing stress, conventional treatments, and advanced options can help treat acne. Read on to learn more about back-to-school skincare tips for acne on our blog.


Women’s Dermatology

Peptides in Skincare: Why They Matter

Peptides bring numerous potential benefits to the skincare arena. However, there are considerations to keep in mind when opting for peptides for your skincare. Read on to learn more about why peptides in skincare matter.


    Make An Enquiry

    Leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

    For Faster Response, Call Us Directly!

    +65‎ 6320‎ 0152

    Epi Dermatology & Laser Specialist Clinic

    Feel free to drop by our our clinic and meet our specialist

    101 Irrawaddy Road #16-09
    Royal Square at Novena, Singapore 329565

    +65‎ 6320 ‎0152

    +65 8701 7662 (WhatsApp Enquiries Only)

    Mon - Fri (09:00am - 05:30pm)
    Sat (09:00am - 1:00pm)
    Sun & Public Holidays (Closed)