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by instructor Pey Shiuan Wu

The sun protection knowledge you must know

Summer is on the way; strong ultraviolet is coming along. The shorter the ultraviolet wavelength, the stronger the energy intensity, the shorter time needed to damage the skin, and the greater harm to the human body. If you don’t protect your skin well enough, it may accelerate skin aging, dryness, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, age spots and other issues. There are two basic types of ultraviolet rays that reach the earth’s surface—UVB and UVA. Let’s learn more about UVA and UVB.

In general, the ultraviolet wavelength can be roughly divided into three bands, UVA (wavelength 320 ~ 400nm, also known as tanning reaction band), its intensity can be transmitted to the dermal layers. It has strong penetration, slow reaction but last long. Although UVA does not cause acute inflammation of the skin, it could penetrate through glass, clothing and into human epidermis. It can penetrate the epidermis and then reach the dermis layer of the skin. UVA can be further divided into UV-A1 and UV-A2, in which UV-A1 (wavelength 340~400 nm) belongs to the long wave range, and its penetration is the strongest to reach the deepest skin, even reach the dermis layer to cause skin tanned. It is the most harmful to the skin, but it is also the most easily overlooked, especially in the non-summer season. UV-A1 intensity is weaker but still exists, and accumulated amount for a long period of time will cause skin damage. Such as skin aging and sagging, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, melanin precipitation, etc. are caused by UV-A1. UV-A2 (wavelength 320nm-340nm) penetration is deeper than UVB, and the damage to the skin is also greater. It causes skin redness and pain, dull complexation, rapid moisture loss, solar keratosis (age spots). These are all mainly caused by UVA-2.

The penetration power of UVB (wavelength is 280~320nm, also known as sunburn band) can reach the surface layer of the human body and cause erythema; the main band leads to sunburn. Mild symptom on skin is red, swollen and painful. In severe cases, it could cause blisters, peeling, etc., and will gradually subside after a few days. After about 4-7 days, the skin will turn from red to tan.

The effect of each UV band on the skin

After understanding the damage UVA and UVB could bring to the skin, let's take a look at the number labeled on the sunscreen products. What does it mean? First, you can evaluate UVA protection power of the sunscreen from PFA value, or from SPF value (Sun Protection Factor) that refers to the strength of protection against UVB sunburn and redness.

In a perfect scenario, SPF30 sunscreen products can block 96.6% of UVB, but pay extra attention to how much product each person put on when applying sunscreen; it is usually less than the standard amount 2mg/cm2. In addition to that, many people don’t have the habit of reapplying sunscreen, so it is still easy to get redden and sunburn. Therefore, average sun protection for city life, like shopping, commuting, SPF 25-30 is good enough. From the SPF value, the higher the value, the longer it could protect the skin from sunburned, but SPF50 protection is actually only 2% more than SPF 25, not twice. So, simply put, no matter how high the PA or SPF value are, reapplying sunscreen throughout the day is the key to full coverage sun protection. And many people may have a question: do we need to wear sunscreen every day? Or is it better to use it only when the sun is stronger during summer time? In fact, it is recommended to put on sunscreen 365 days a year, and not just once but reapplying adequately to achieve ideal sun protection!

Indoor lighting such as fluorescent lamps, halogen lamps, incandescent arc bulbs, mosquito lamps, ultraviolet germicidal lamps and blue light from 3C products, although they are not as strong as the intensity of ultraviolet in the sun, it is still important to pay more attention to the indoor lighting around you. Keep appropriate distance and avoid exposure for a long period of time. For people who works in the office and students who stay indoors most of the time, or those just leave home for a short time to go shopping, it is recommended to choose medium-high SPF sunscreen; If you don’t feel sweaty, then there is no need to reapply all the time, and it is recommended to reapply every 2-3 hours or just reapply before stepping outside the door. In the case of participating outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking etc., you can choose high SPF, waterproof and tinted hydrating sunscreen. It is recommended to apply the sunblock every 1-2 hours. Once jumping out of water or sweating after exercise, you should immediately apply sunscreen.

Ultraviolet A- Protection Factor PFA (Protection Factor of UVA)

Ultraviolet B- Protection Factor SPF(Sun Protection Factor)

SPF value corresponds to UVB shielding rate (refers to the protection from causing sunburn and redden skin caused by UVB)

Nowadays, there are a lot of sunscreen products in the market. After learning the meanings of SPF and PA values, you know that higher value doesn’t necessary means better sunscreen. It is more about choosing the right sunscreen based on your needs and lifestyle.

The sunscreen products on the market are divided into mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. In overall, most of the commercially available sunscreen products contain both mineral and chemical ingredients and have the benefit of both to offer the light texture.

Sun protection trend this year focuses on the combination of mineral and chemical sunscreens. For example, a new kind of chemical based Tinosorb S sunscreen is highly resistant to light decomposition, better absorption, and higher stability and safety. Combined with physical sunscreen ingredients (such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) to reduce skin irritation. Physical mineral concealer provides convergence effect. You can choose non-fragrance, non-pigment, non-alcohol, and non-parabens products, also sunscreen containing moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and plant extracts to increase the moisture level of the bottom skin layer during hot summer season. Or, choose powder that can absorb oil from excessive sebum production and smooth and mineral powder such as silicon powder that glides easily when applying onto the skin. The texture is mainly light and non-greasy.

Due to the high temperature in Taiwan, also, the long working hours and work pressure, it is easy to cause the skin to become dull and sallow. It is recommended to use tinted sunscreens, which also feature multiple functions such as skin care, makeup base and sun protection. People with less imperfection on the skin can choose cushion foundation or liquid foundation (lotion); for those who have blemishes and spots, it is recommended to use cream foundation. There are more makeup products containing sun protection factor nowadays. You can also use with sunscreen products to apply layer by layer to increase the effect. If makeup base contains sun protection factor (ex: SPF50, PA+++), use blotting papers or facial tissues to reduce oil residual or sweat on the skin before reapplying, and then apply the last layer of makeup sunscreen.