Medication Information Leaflet

What is this medication for?

Excessive exposure to sunlight causes sunburn, premature aging, wrinkling and brown pigmentation. It also increases the risk of skin cancer. In some people, sunlight may induce skin rashes or worsen an existing skin condition. Although your skin has its own natural defense mechanism, it is not enough to prevent the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation.

The so-called healthy tan is actually a response to sun damage. The skin starts to become darker and the outer layers become thicker in an effort to provide a better barrier against the sunrays. However, the harmful rays are still able to penetrate this natural barrier. Additional protection is essential to prevent damage into the deeper layers of your skin.

Sunscreens are creams, lotions, sprays or oils that protect the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation of the sun by providing a chemical or physical barrier to it.

Chemical sunscreens absorb ultraviolet radiation, preventing it from reaching the deeper layers of the skin. Examples of some common active ingredients are:

  • Cinnamates

  • Drometrizole trisiloxane

  • Octocrylene

  • Oxybenzone

  • Avobenzone (butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane)

  • Octinoxate

  • Salicylates

  • Terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid

Physical sunscreens reflect and scatter light, thus preventing the ultraviolet radiation from penetrating the skin. Examples of some common active ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

How should I take/use this medication?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is an index to indicate the degree of protection from ultraviolet B (UVB), the type of ultraviolet radiation that is more likely to cause sunburn. The higher the SPF, the longer the duration of the protection. A sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher should be applied frequently to maintain protection.

  • Dry your skin well before applying the sunscreen.

  • Apply the sunscreen at least half an hour before going into the sun.

  • Apply the sunscreen generously and evenly over the exposed areas of the whole body.

  • Wait for the sunscreen to dry before putting on your clothes or makeup.

  • With a non-water resistant sunscreen, re-apply after every swim or after heavy perspiration but make sure your skin is dry first.

  • With a water resistant sunscreen, re-apply every two hours or re-apply every hour if you have been swimming.

  • Use sunscreen even on cloudy or overcast days. The sunrays are as damaging to your skin on hazy days as they are on sunny days.

  • Use sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher during high altitude activities such as skiing and mountain climbing. At high altitudes, there is less atmosphere to absorb the sunrays, so exposure to the sunrays is higher and the risk of your skin burning is higher.

What precautions should I take?

  • Inform your healthcare professional if you are allergic to this sunscreen or any of its ingredients.

  • If you have oily or acne-prone skin, avoid greasy formulations of sunscreens.

  • Other ways to maximise sun protection include:

    • Avoiding the sun when it is strongest between 11am to 3pm.

    • Wearing protective clothes under the hot sun. Even if you are under the shade on the beach, sunrays can be reflected off the sand and cause a burn on your skin.

What are some common side-effects of this medication?

  • Temporary stinging sensation

What are some rare but serious side-effects that I need to seek medical advice immediately?

  • Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction which include one or more of the following:

    • Swollen face/eyes/lips/tongue

    • Difficulty in breathing

    • Itchy skin rashes over your whole body

  • Skin redness or irritation such as burning, itching

  • Localised skin rash or swelling

  • Pimples (acne)

  • Pain in hairy areas

  • Pus in the hair follicles

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should stop your sunscreen and see your healthcare professional immediately.

How should I store this medication?

Store in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight. Keep this away from young children.

How should I throw away this medication safely?

Pack this medication into a black trash bag and seal it tightly before throwing into the rubbish chute or bin.


If you take more than the recommended dose, please seek medical advice immediately. The information provided on this page does not replace information from your healthcare professional. Please consult your healthcare professional for more information.

This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.

Last updated on March 2021

Back to Top