It’s a tale as old as time – the sun comes out (finally) and you’re being lathered in sticky sun cream by your parents before being released to the beach on your family trip to the seaside.
This core memory is one that many of us share when it comes to our introduction to sun safety and our relationship with sunscreen. But the truth is, our skin deserves better. Even on days when it seems too grey for your skin to be at risk from harmful rays, you can be sure they’re always there, which means wearing SPF should be a year-round habit and not just a summer romance. Today, we've teamed up with Holistic Skincare Therapist Sarah Brown to spill the secrets of sunscreen and it's importance in your daily routine.
What is SPF in sunscreen?
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB rays - the kind that can cause sunburn and irreversible skin damage and cancers.
The most important thing to consider when shopping for sunscreen is as the SPF value increases, so too does your sunburn protection. Remember:
- Sunscreen with SPF 30 will protect you from around 96.7% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 offers protection from about 98% of UVB rays
- No sunscreens offer 100% protection from UVB rays
- While you can purchase SPF 100 in the UK, it will only offer you slightly more protection (99%) versus the SPF 50
You may have also spotted sun creams which offer protection from both UVB and UVA rays – these are called broad-spectrum sunscreens and are well worth the investment. UVA rays are very powerful and penetrate the skin on a deeper level than UVB, leading to long-term damage (think leathery skin, wrinkles, sun spots, and all types of skin cancer).
Look out for the UVA star rating when shopping – the lowest recommended for UVA protection by UK standards is 4.
Broad-spectrum moisturiser: Éminence Bright Skin Moisturiser SPF40
How does sunscreen work?
These days, we’re a bit spoiled for choice when it comes to sunscreen options. Gone are the days of white cast limbs and greasy faces. Now we have expertly formulated lotions, sprays, gels and serums to suit all skin types whilst protecting the full body from the sun.
Depending on the product type you choose, your sunscreen will fall in to one of two categories: physical or chemical sunscreen.
Physical sunscreens act like a shield for your skin by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting or blocking out the sun’s rays. These formulas tend to include active filters like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and could even include micro minerals or tiny metals to aid the process. Apply these as the final step of your skincare routine before makeup.
Physical barrier lip balm: Éminence Rosehip & Lemongrass Lip Balm SPF15
Chemical sunscreens act like a sponge for your skin by absorbing UV light, turning the rays into heat and releasing them from the skin. Look for active organic (carbon-based) compounds like oxybenzone or octinoxate when shopping for these sun creams. Apply these before moisturiser and give your skin at least a minute of time to absorb the sunscreen before continuing your routine.
Whilst your sun cream does all the hard work to protect your skin from sun damage, it’s your job to ensure it’s well-applied. Sunscreen sprays may be quicker and less messy to apply, but have you sprayed every spot? Is there a breeze blowing most of it away before it hits your body? Make sure your sunscreen is working well by applying it well yourself. As a general rule of thumb, try adding a shot glass worth of sun cream to your entire body, and two finger lengths to your face and neck.
Why is it important to wear sunscreen?
The secret to healthy skin is putting the work in – from regular cleansing to drinking plenty of water and, of course, sun protection, many different factors can affect your glow.
To help make sunscreen a part of your daily regime, ensure that you have some sun cream visible and easily accessible. Keep it by your make up bag or toothbrush as a reminder every morning, and keep mini products in your handbag should you need to re-apply throughout the day.
3 Important Reasons to Wear Sunscreen Daily
- Reduce the chances of sunburn to prevent risk of skin cancer
- Avoid signs of ageing
- Prevent skin discolouration (pigmentation)
We could go on about the long-term benefits of SPF, but the simplest message is, your skin will be grateful for the protection against both types of UV rays (UVA – aging, UVB – burning) and everyday aggressors like blue light (from screen time) infrared (warm light) and pollution (it’s everywhere!)
Top tip: The best sunscreen is the one you’ll reach for every day!