To highlight National Sunscreen Day on May 22, and with the promise of sunny weather ahead, in this post we’ll answer all your questions about SPF. What it is, how to use it, and how to give your skin the best possible protection. SPF isn’t as straightforward as you think it is, so read on to find out more.
The sun emits three types of radiation, UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVA rays have the longest wavelength, making them stronger, followed by UVB and UVC. UVC radiation cannot come through our atmosphere, which is why we don’t hear so much about it, as it cannot damage our skin.
UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply and cause most skin ageing. UVB has a shorter wavelength and is what causes the skin to burn. Both types can cause skin cancer, and although UVB is the biggest culprit, UVA intensifies the reaction of UVB. Together they cause all manner of problems.
This is why it is crucial to pick sunscreens which offer both UVA and UVB protection, also known as “broad spectrum ”, sunscreen (more on this later in the post!).
Sunscreens can be either physical or chemical.
Physical sunscreens include ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They sit on top of the skin surface and physically block and deflect the rays from reaching the skin. These are usually thicker than chemical sunscreens and are often kinder to sensitive skin.
Chemical sunscreens include ingredients such as avobenzone and octisalate. They absorb into the skin and transform the rays into heat. Chemical sunscreens are usually much lighter in formulation and as a result don’t feel as sticky or uncomfortable.
Many sunscreens offer both physical and chemical protection, and the right sunscreen for you will depend on several factors including your skin type and lifestyle. A consultation with a skincare specialist like Emma can help determine the right type of sunscreen for you.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It refers to the amount of time that it would take your skin to redden in the sun compared to no sunscreen. So, someone wearing SPF15 would take 15 times longer to redden than if they weren’t wearing it.
This means that it is still possible to tan whilst wearing sunscreen, but your skin is better able to tolerate the effects of the sun when wearing SPF.
SPF only refers to the product’s ability to block UVB rays, not UVA.
Most countries, including the UK, have a UVA protection rating to provide information about the amount of protection a product provides from UVA rays. In the UK, this is the UVA seal, a circle containing 1-5 stars, the more stars the higher the rating. Look for a product with 4-5 stars.
All sunscreens must be reapplied every 2 hours to remain effective.
The Dermatological Society recommends a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, but SPF50 offers more protection from all the effects of the sun.
Sunscreen should be worn, every single day, whether you are going to be outside for extended periods of time or not.
While sunscreen is of course important to protect against skin cancer, the sun also causes the worst signs of ageing. The radiation leads to deterioration to the proteins in our skin, producing wrinkles, and the UVA rays also cause pigmentation and liver spots.
Applying an SPF as part of your daily skincare routine is the number one way to guard against the most preventable type of skin ageing.
Again, NO! For three main reasons:
To find out more about SPF and find the perfect sunscreen for you, why not book a skincare consultation with Emma? Emma will tailor a bespoke skincare routine for you to have your best skin ever, both now and in the future.