The Importance of SPF
We all know that sunscreen is important, but why? The aim of a sunscreen is to protect us from the sun’s UV rays, which are harmful. These are UVA and UVB rays. When we talk about UVB rays, these are the ones that cause sunburn, which we can see and feel. Whereas UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, UVA rays are the ones which are responsible for sun damage, wrinkles, and premature aging. It’s important to note that both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. By using a sunscreen, we can help to reduce the risk of the impact of both UVA and UVB rays. Whenever your skin is exposed to the sun, it’s important to be aware of using sunscreen
Do I only need to wear sunscreen in the summer?
Usually something that is only used during the summertime, on holiday, or just sunny days, sunscreen really should be worn all year round. During the summertime, or nice weather we do tend to spend more time outside, wear less clothing, we swim and sweat more (both which affect sunscreen on our skin), all of these things make us more susceptible to both UVA and UVB rays.
When it comes to autumn/winter months, sunscreen usually takes a back seat, but it’s important to remember that these UV rays are just as harmful during these months. If you’re sat by a window, driving to work or still spending time outdoors these UV rays (especially UVA rays) can still penetrate and damage your skin. So, even in the wintertime it is best to use an SPF to protect the skin. Even on a cloudy day you should be using sunscreen, as you can still be affected by UV rays! SPF should also be applied to all skin that is exposed to UV rays.
If you live in a climate with all year-round sunshine, SPF should always be seen as an essential, it’s important to remember that snow also reflects UV rays, so SPF is important then as well.
I don’t tend to burn when I’m in the sun, do I still need to use an SPF?
It’s still important that you use a sunscreen. Those who are light-skinned are more at risk of burning and skin cancer, but it can still affect anyone. Although you may not find that you aren’t as impacted by UVB rays, there are still UVA rays which penetrate deep into the skin, and cause sun damage, wrinkles, premature aging and skin cancer.
What does SPF mean?
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is used to measure the UVB protection that a sunscreen has, while looking out for UVA protection is separate to the SPF. Packaging will indicate if the product is protective of both UVA and UVB rays. The minimum SPF you should use is between 15-30. Using an SPF of 30 does not mean that it has twice the protectiveness of an SPF 15, instead SPF demonstrates the amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting burnt, e.g. SPF 30 means you can stay in the sun 30 times the original duration, however this in itself is impacted by factors like application, and time of year.
- SPF 15 protects your skin from 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
Where a sunscreen has broad spectrum on it, it means that it's protective against both UVA and UVB rays. With your sunscreen it is important to check that it contains UVA protection, which may be a star rating (for the UK) or a UVA logo. The UVA star rating ranges from 0-5 stars and shows the percentage of UVA rays absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB. A low SPF may have a high UVA star rating, but not due to providing a high UVA protection, instead the ratio between UVA and UVB is similar, so try and aim for a high SPF and UVA protection (4 to 5 stars) (British Association of Dermatologists). On the other hand, the UVA logo indicates that it meets the EU standards, and the UVA protection is at least a third of the SPF value.
Is a separate SPF or a moisturizer with SPF fine?
An SPF with moisturizer is better than nothing, but a separate sunscreen is better. During the spring and summer months, it is best to use a separate SPF (on both face and body). Whereas in the wintertime it may be ok to use an SPF that is found in your moisturizer, however, many of us do not use enough of the moisturizer to produce the same protective factor as using a separate SPF.
During the winter, although UVB rays may decrease in some countries, UVA rays stay the same, which means we are still at risk of damage to our skin. In the summer you want to ensure that you are using a separate sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection. Apply this after your moisturizer. If you plan to use a moisturizer with SPF it is important to check that it protects against both UVB (SPF), and also UVA rays, as in the winter UVA rays are more likely to impact your skin.
There may be circumstances in which using a separate sunscreen may be better suited all year round, this may be the case for those who are sensitive to UV rays, and those who use chemical exfoliants, like our AHA Dazzling Tonic, which helps to remove the top layer of the skin, increasing production of new skin cells, however, this does make your more susceptible to skin damage. If you are using our Dazzling Tonic please use a UVA and UVB protective sunscreen on your face daily.
What is the difference between chemical and physical sunscreen?
Chemical sunscreens use ingredients that act as filters and absorbs the rays, helping to reduce the levels of UV rays which penetrate the skin. It is recommended with these to allow 20-30 minutes to allow the sunscreen to become effective, so it is best to apply before going out.
Mineral sunscreens (also known as physical sunscreens) usually contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide (or both). These physically block UV rays, and work as soon as they are applied. Mineral sunscreens are better for those who have sensitive skin, and for those highly sensitive to UV rays.
My sunscreen is water resistant; do I need to reapply it?
Water resistant doesn’t mean it is waterproof (no sunscreen can claim this), instead, it means that the sunscreen is effective up to 40-80 minutes of swimming. It is still as important to reapply these after swimming or sweating, as you would with another sunscreen. Even with a high SPF or a water-resistant SPF it is important to make sure that you reapply it every 2 hours, and immediately after swimming.
Protect your skin
When applying sunscreen, it is important to apply the correct amount, and make sure that you cover areas which are frequently missed (neck, ears, and back). It is recommended that you apply 6 teaspoons of sunscreen to cover an adult body, over half a teaspoon for each arm and for your face and neck, over one teaspoon for each leg, front of body and back (British Association of Dermatologists).
In the UK, more than 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually in the UK. With more than 4 out of 5 of the cases of skin cancer being a preventable disease (British Association of Dermatologists). If you are concerned about any moles which have changed in any way, please contact your GP or dermatologist, if you visit your GP, they can refer you to a dermatologist through the NHS.
In the US, nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer each year, in Australia 2 in 3 will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, and in New Zealand new skin cancers total about 82,000 per year. For more information on the recommendations on your guidelines for SPF and UVA protection please follow your national guidelines.
Please note: this is general information and does not replace specific advice given by a doctor or dermatologist.
Daisy, MSc PGDip ANutr,
Is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition, both of which are Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course. Daisy has worked for an NHS funded project, the Diabetes Prevention Program; and shadowed a nutritionist in Harley Street, London
About Lucy Bee Limited
Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. We always recommend referring your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner. Members of the Lucy Bee team can only offer their best advice.
Lucy Bee is a lifestyle brand selling skincare and soap products all completely free from palm oil and with minimal use of plastic. Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, organic, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and empowering people to make informed choices and select quality, natural products for their skin.
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