Are you using the right sunscreen? Here's what you need to know before you start slathering the cream on yourself.

Given our hectic lifestyle and increasing pollution, the demand for different kinds of beauty products has also increased. With summer approaching, everyone will begin to reach for the sunscreen, to protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun.

UV radiation from the sun rays leads to changes in many vital skin structures. There are three kinds, each with a different frequency. The first, UVA, has a long wavelength and penetrates deeply into the skin and induces permanent skin darkening, visible brown spots and tends to give a nice tan first! It can pass through cloud cover and windows. Reflective surfaces like snow and water increase the amount of UV radiation. UVB and UVC have shorter wavelengths that affect the top layers of the skin and tend to burn the skin. The damage is principally caused by the combined action of UVB and UVA rays.

Changes in the skin

The most noticeable change is a freckle. Sunburn is another common problem. The most devastating effect of exposure is developing skin cancer over time. But there is a way to protect the skin. Sunscreen and protective clothes can help in a big way. Sunscreen is formulated with unique chemical components that form an invisible, protective layer against penetrating UV rays. Due to the variety and range of sunscreen products available, people are confused about what to choose.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of protection against UVB rays. The SPF number tells you how long you can last in the sun without being burned. The higher the SPF number, the longer the protection.

Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) is a measure of protection against UVA rays. Higher the PPD, lesser the skin darkening reaction. UVA protection is denoted by UVA+++/UVA++/UVA+ .

When selecting a sunscreen, it's important to consider different skin types and how they react to exposure to the sun.

Young children: For ages 6 months and above, consider a product with SPF 15 or higher to protect against both tanning and burning. Also consider a label that lists protection against both UVA and UVB rays, also known as broad spectrum.

Very Fair: Generally burns quickly; tanning is rare. So choose products containing SPF 50+ and PPD 30+ /UVA+++.

Fair: Almost always burns easily; some tanning can occur although not much. Products containing SPF 30-50 and PPD 30+/UVA+++ are the best.

Light: Burns in the moderate range; tanning is normally gradual. Consider products containing SPF 30+ & PPD 20/UVA++.

Medium: Burns in the minimal range; tanning happens often yielding a moderate brown shade. SPF 15-30 and PPD 10-15/UVA++ should work best.

Dark: Rarely burns; tanning causes a dark brown shade. SPF 15 and PPD 10/UVA++

What's Best for your skin

Oily or acne-prone skin: People with oily skin should use a gel-based or a gel cream sunscreen. It should be non-comedogenic, non-greasy and hypoallergenic in nature

Dry skin: People with dry skin should use thick creams or moisturisers that are oily and greasy in nature.

Sensitive skin: Hypoallergenic, soothing, anti-irritant and non-perfumed sunscreen is best. Such people should always apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or use physical sun block micronised zinc oxide or apply thick coating of calamine.

Taking appropriate care of your skin now will help keep your skin healthier and younger-looking in the future.