This dapper, young doctor is one of the pioneers of anti-ageing in India. When he’s not busy giving women flawless skin, Dr. Varun Katyal is attending conferences, trainings and workshops. We caught up with him to for an insight into the world of all things sunscreen.


1) Choosing the right SPF is confusing, is there a number that’s good for all?

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ranks protection from UVB rays. SPF represents the length of time one can stay out in the sun without burning or tanning, multiplied by the corresponding number. So a person who would normally start to burn or tan in 10 minutes, a SPF 15 would allow that person to stay out in the sun 15 times longer. This means one could theoretically have 150 minutes of sun protection. SPF 15 filters out 93% of rays while SPF 30 filters out 97% of rays. So, generally, one could choose a SPF 30. One may opt for higher SPF if one has very fair skin or if one knows one will be out in the sun for longer periods.


2) Do we need to wear sunscreen, when the moisturizer/foundation already has SPF?

Yes, we need to wear sunscreen, when the moisturizer/foundation already has SPF because SPF just ranks protection from UVB rays. Basically there are two types of Ultra Voilet rays (UV rays) that reach earth that can harm the skin – UVA &UVB. Therefore, to ensure protection from UVA rays, one needs to use a broad- spectrum sunscreen which ensures protection from both UVA & UVB rays.


3) What is a broad spectrum sunscreen and what does “PA+++” on sunscreen signify?

A sunscreen which provides protection from both UVA & UVB rays is a broad-spectrum sunscreen. In addition to SPF, which signifies protection from only UVB rays, a broad-spectrum sunscreen should contain ingredients or ranking signifying protection from UVA rays. One such ranking is PA ranking. It refers to the amount of protection the sunscreen offers from the UVA rays. PA rankings are listed as PA+, PA++ or PA+++ with the more plus symbols signifying more protection from UVA rays.


4) When and how should we wear sunscreen?

Sunscreen should be applied properly to all sun-exposed areas at least 20 minutes before stepping out every day. Don’t forget your ears, hands & feet. It should be reapplied every 2 hours & after swimming, vigorous activity, excessive perspiration or toweling. Your skin is effectively protected if 2 mg/cm square layer of sunscreen has been applied. This literally means ½ teaspoon (~3ml) to each arm, to the face and the neck. More than a teaspoon (~6ml) is needed for application to each leg, chest & back. One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly.


5) How do we sun-proof skin in extreme humid weather conditions?

Since in humid weather conditions one tends to perspire more, the sunscreen may slough off one’s skin. So, one may need to apply more sunscreen, more often to make up for loss when one sweats more. Also, one may opt for a water-resistant sunscreen. Additional sun-protection measures like wearing lightweight, cotton clothes along with a cap scarf or broad-brimmed hat, an umbrella, sunglasses etc. can act as shields from harmful UV rays and may also be helpful.


6) Do hair need sun protection as well?

Yes, hair needs sun-protection as well. The sun can have a drying, damaging effect on hair. One can wear a hat or cap when out in the sun to protect one’s hair. Certain products like serums, hair sunscreens etc can also be used to protect one’s hair from the sun.

7) How effective are sunscreens in spray format?

Sunscreens in spray format have their pros and cons. They are easy to apply, are lightweight & dry quickly. But unlike a lotion, it may be difficult to see where you’ve sprayed so some areas of your skin may go unknowingly unprotected. Some spray formulas also contain alcohol, which cud affect sensitive skin. Some people find certain sunscreens in spray format leave the skin feeling sticky or hard to wash off.


8) Why should we choose sunscreen with antioxidants?

Research studies show that topical application of antioxidants in a sunscreen product can provide measurable skincare benefits that go beyond sun protection. Also, no sunscreen can block all of the damaging rays of the sun, so antioxidants help to block the UV radiation which the sunscreen by itself cannot block.


9) Can the food we eat act as sunscreen?

Yes, there are some foods & nutrients that can help boost our skin’s antioxidant levels to protect against UV radiation. Foods that are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients & omega-3s can help to provide an added layer of protection for the skin from UV damage, and also help to prevent the signs of ageing.


10) Which sunscreen do you recommend?

There are a lot of good sunscreens available. Some of the sunscreens which are good are fromLancôme, Neutrogena, Vichy, Kiehl’s, Garnier, L’Oréal Paris India, Lakmé Cosmetics, Lotus Herbals etc. Some good sunscreens which are available at pharmacies are Ansolar, Suncros, La Shield, Sunmate, Shadowz, Facegaurd, Sunban, Photoban and Sunprotek. One must always opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen as per one’s skin type, skin condition, skin concerns & environment.


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