While the internet constantly pushes for the perfect skin routine, most doctors and people will say, at least wear sunscreen. It has to do more with protection than vanity. But how much to use, which one to pick? Doctors, brands, and men who use sunscreens break down everything you need to know about the right SPF

I’m a self-confessed sunscreen promoter, almost bordering on the offensive. Admittedly, I wasn’t always this passionate about protecting my skin, until a few years ago when I realised that even if you don’t do any kind of skin pampering, you’ll go a long way if you’re just loyal to your SPF. Even the lazy person’s guide to skincare will first ask you to wear sunscreen. But what’s so important about wearing sunscreen? Do men wear it? How to pick the right sunscreen for yourself? Tons of information on Instagram, zero clarity. 

Peter Kotikalapudi, 35, was introduced to sunscreen by his wife, a beauty editor, who told him how important it is. “My in-laws have had significant sun damage to their skin, and my wife saw firsthand what UV rays can do to our skin, so she’s made sunscreen a go-to product for us,” he says. Peter tends to use sunscreen when he’s going to be out in the sun for a while. As a beach family, they travel with at least four to five sunscreens. 

Forest Essentials is one of the most trusted luxury brands in India, and their Sun Fluid Tender Coconut Water with Turmeric and Basil Leaf is a common favourite. They have a bestselling face moisturiser — Soundarya Radiance Cream — which is prepared with a natural SPF of 25. Dr Taruna Yadav, the brand’s senior Ayurveda expert, suggests their Sandalwood & Orange Peel Facial Moisturizer with SPF 25 as the ideal sunscreen for men on the go. While all their products are gender neutral, their Hydrating Facial Moisturiser in Sandalwood & Orange Peel SPF 25 is included as part of their Gentleman’s Collection.

“In our customer base, Forest Essentials has a special Soundarya club, with a base of over 2.70 lakh members, where men hold the place with 24 per cent buying capacity, and women lead with a majority of 76 per cent,” she states.

Forest Essentials

Shubham Ladha, 26, knew about sunscreen as a product for a while, but only realised how important it was to use it regularly in 2019. “In an interview I was doing with London-based skincare specialist, Teresa Tarmey, she explained how melanin-rich skin needs sunscreen — especially one that’s broad-spectrum and with SPF — to protect it from getting susceptible to dark spots, pigmentation, ageing, and skin cancer. I gradually learnt more about it, and social media accounts have helped me,” he explains. Pankaj Ahuja, 34, has also been wearing sunscreen every day for 12 years now after being asked by his dermatologist to wear one. 

Arata, a relatively new yet popular clean beauty brand, has two highly-effective sunscreens — their Sunscreen Cream and Sunscreen Gel. Both sunscreens are suitable for all skin types. Neemli Naturals has The Neemli Naturals SPF 30+ Mattifying Sunscreen, which can be directly sprayed on the face, making it easier to reapply. Bhaskara Seth, co-founder, Neemli Naturals, says that in their customer base, 20 men to 80 women use sunscreen. “Even though the numbers are skewed towards more women buying and using sunscreen, we’ve seen a jump in the number of men shopping for it recently (it used to be 10 to 90),” he adds.

Arata Sunscreen Gel

Phy, a grooming brand for men, has The Shield Daily Defence Cream SPF 45. Rachit Mehra, senior marketing manager of Phy, says, “While a sunscreen might not be the first skincare product that guys gravitate towards, we’ve seen a steady growth in its inclusion in their skincare routine. We’ve seen at least 40 per cent of our customers ordering sunscreen.” Re’equil, another popular and trusted brand with three sunscreens to its name (their Sheer Zinc Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 PA+++ is my favourite sunscreen under make-up), believes they have a 60:40 ratio between women and men, according to founder Vipul Gupta.

Sunscreen

Clearly, there are enough brands who are catering to sunscreen needs of different skin types. But to understand the hows and whys of the SPF, we need a dermatologist. Dr Rashmi Shetty, celebrity dermatologist, explains that men need just as much sunscreen as women do, but they may want to re-apply more as they tend to sweat a lot more than women.

So can men and women use the same sunscreen, or are men’s skin concerns different? “Men and women can use the same sunscreen but men’s faces can be more oily, more prone to open pores, could be more sweaty, and more sensitive as they shave on an everyday basis. Consult a dermatologist to give you a water-based sunscreen, or physical-based sunscreen, or matte textured sunscreen might help,” she explains, recommending that a water-based sunscreen or powder sunscreen can be good for men.

A common misconception is that you use sunscreen only when stepping out. So does that mean we all used no sunscreen during the lockdown? Absolutely not. Dr Shetty explains, “We are all working from home, and we are all wanting a piece of sunlight or outdoors. A lot of people tend to sit near the window with bright light. Wearing sunscreen at home, and also while sitting in front of the computer all the time is important,” she emphasises.

And now comes the main question: are men finally wearing sunscreen? Dr Shetty says, “One of the most important reasons is that men are seeing a lot of pigmentation, and they are aware that skin can be taken care of. Tan, redness, pigmentation, acne, all of this can be prevented with good skincare is what they have realised,” she adds.

Gupta says that more men, especially Gen Z, are prioritising self care. “Given the current level of awareness, we believe a good 25-30 per cent of urban guys now acknowledge the need for sunscreen,” he adds. Yashwant Singh, a skincare influencer, says that a lot of guys do ask for sunscreen recommendations now than when he had just started out. 

Dr Taruna Yadav explains that a lesser known fact is that men’s skin is as prone to sunburn and pigmentation caused by UVA/UVB rays. “Over the past few years, men’s facial care products have undergone a changing landscape, which is no longer limited to mere shaving creams. Today, the demand for men’s facial products is increasing as men take equal initiative in investing in skincare products,” she adds.

Adnan Shaikh, 34, who has been using sunscreen twice a day since he was 25, feels men are realizing that sunscreen is important. “It’s also because men weren’t told to use sunscreen, and that it was a beauty product. I know people who still don’t use it because they think it’s girly,” he adds. Sameer Seth, 39, who has been using sunscreen for seven years, agrees, and adds that men are also less shy these days, with the rise of metrosexuality and normalising self care.

Ladha, however, still feels unsure about if men are really adapting to sunscreen. “It could depend on how men associate using it only while being directly exposed to sunlight, or don’t because of the lack thereof. It could also be that because sunscreen is a cosmetic product, and the industry in India is largely constructed as socially feminine, so, I’m not sure how many men are inclined or disinclined to use it, while women usually have been made to get used to it since a younger age. It could also be why men might not like how it feels on their skin enough to get used to using sunscreen regularly. I certainly suggest it to all my family and friends,” he says. 

So for those of you who haven’t been lathering sunblock yet, there’s enough reason to start. 

HOW TO SELECT A SUNSCREEN

  • Always go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen as it lends complete protection from UVA and UVB rays. 
  • Excessive sweating typically washes away the sunscreen especially during hot and humid weather, so selecting a water-resistant formula is a preferable choice.
  • Pay attention to your skin type. If you have oily and acne-prone skin, choose a non-comedogenic sunscreen, which does not block your pores. If you have dry skin, look for one that has hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. For sensitive skin, opt for a natural sunscreen that has healing and soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, sandalwood, licorice, etc.

HOW TO READ A SUNSCREEN LABEL by Dr. Rashmi Shetty

  1. Check SPF, which is written on top which is usually denoted by a number. Anything between 30-50 is good for Indian skin. 
  2. Look for the stars, which is usually the tan protecting factor. So, four stars are really good. One can opt for a sunscreen with three stars. It is also good enough, they protect you from tanning. 
  3. Next thing to look for is IR, which is infrared radiation protection. A lot of the newer sunscreen have an IR marking written on it.