Whether you live in Scotland or Singapore, sunscreen needs to be a part of your daily skincare routine. Sunscreen protects against solar radiation, in particular UVA and UVB rays. Other forms of radiation include infrared and high-energy light and some creams will protect against these also. Many people think that they only need to wear sunscreen in the summer, which could not be further from the truth. On cloudy winter days there is still ultraviolet radiation from the sun and up to 80% of ultraviolet light can penetrate clouds.
The two main repercussions of not wearing sunscreen are simple- skin cancer and premature ageing. Ever heard the phrase prevention is better than cure? Well in this case it’s cheaper too! Anti-ageing products don’t come cheap and a very small percentage of them are proven to be effective.
When looking for a good sun cream, it’s important to understand what the numerical values mean. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is simply a measure of the ability to protect against UVB radiation. UVB damages the outer layers of the skin, (which we know all too well is called sun burn) and is very painful and uncomfortable… not to mention bad for you. The SPF is a theoretical multiplier of the amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting burnt. So if your unprotected skin starts to go red in 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 20 will theoretically allow you to stay outdoors for 200 minutes. Understand? So, twenty times the original duration of ten. Factors can contribute to this figure being inaccurate, such as what condition your skin is in, distance from the equator, altitude, time of year and the most common factor- people simply not putting enough on! Then you have to remember that swimming, clothes coming on and off and towels will rub the cream off, so regular re-application has to be maintained.
With that in mind, please read this bit because it’s important! Using an SPF 30 will not provide twice as much protection as using SPF 15, the same as a factor 20 is not twice as good as a factor 10.
- SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB
- SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB
- SPF 50 blocks about 98% of UVB
So as you can see, there is very little difference between an SPF 30 and an SPF 50. There is also no sunscreen that gives 100% protection against the sun. Another common myth about sunscreen is that you won’t get a sun tan if you wear it. This is not true. You will get a tan, and it won’t make a difference if you are wearing factor 15 or factor 50- as we’ve just proven there isn’t much in it. So slap on factor 50 if it does the same thing and enjoy being able to stay out in the sun longer than you could if you had only put a factor 15 on! In essence, the lower the factor, the more you will have to re-apply to stay safe. Some people tan quickly, some don’t. Don’t put yourself at risk to rush something that will come at its own natural pace. (I promise to do a blog post on fake tan very soon!)
SPF also never gives you any indication whether a sunscreen is also offering you protection against UVA. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper than UVB and are the rays typically associated with ageing of the skin. Sunscreens sold in the EU have a ‘star rating’ for UVA or ‘UVA logo’ on the label. It is becoming more common now for sunscreens to contain both UVA & UVB protection so always go for that option where possible. In the UK, whilst UVB levels fluctuate with the seasons, UVA remains relatively static throughout the year. UVA can also penetrate windows so if you spend a lot of time driving or sitting by a window it’s worthwhile wearing sunscreen all year round.
Moving on to your face. You want to make sure you are wearing a minimum of SPF 15 with UVA cover, on your face everyday. SPF 15 is fine for those with olive or darker skin types and SPF 30 is suitable for most white, Caucasian skin. Very fair, pale skin could benefit from increasing to an SPF 50. Lots of products such as moisturiser and foundation have SPF added, as you have probably already noticed. However, the truth is that most of us do not use enough of our cosmetic product to achieve the same SPF as a sunscreen alone. Generally living in the UK, combined products are fine to use in the winter, but come summer switching to using a separate sunscreen is a must.
If you regularly exfoliate or you work outdoors, you are definitely better off with a separate, regular sunscreen. If you spend more than twenty minutes a day outside or live nearer the equator, the same applies. If you do exfoliate regularly, always remember to do it at night and not in the morning. If you scrub off all the dead skin cells in the morning, your skin is fresh and more vulnerable to burning and being damaged in the sun.
- Oily skin types should opt for sunscreens with a matte finish and light gel or fluid texture
- Dry skin types should opt for rich creams and balms
- Sensitive skin types might find sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are better than those with chemical filters.
Sunscreen is the last skin care product applied before makeup. Sunscreen goes on AFTER moisturizer. You should use about half a teaspoon of product to your face and neck. This needs to dry for three to five minutes before applying primer or foundation. So slap some on and go and brush your teeth- that’s what I do!
Thanks for reading this blog! Sun protection is something I think is so important to educate our children and ourselves about! I get most of my scientific knowledge and research from what I learnt during my degree and also from reading The Skincare Bible by Dr Anjali Mahto, a UK dermatologist. Please like, share and learn!!
*Due to the nature of today’s blog, here is a ‘no makeup selfie’ with my crew enjoying the sun, with little Esme laying on the cuteness factor 50!!