Everything You Need To Know About SPF

Everything You Need To Know About SPF

From the difference between UVA and UVB rays to the best reef-friendly sun protection formulas, here is everything you need to know about SPF.

Why Is The Sun So Damaging?

“As most of us are aware, the sun (UV light) is the number one cause of skin damage and ageing, not to mention skin cancers,” says aesthetic doctor and brand founder, Dr. David Jack. There are two types of UV light – UVA and UVB. “UVA is the silent killer and accounts for over 95% of the rays that reach our skin,” he adds. “It’s present all year round and it can penetrate through clouds and glass. It can penetrate much deeper into your skin compared to UVB rays.” UVA is therefore a major cause of skin ageing, pigmentation and other skin changes. UVB has a different effect. “These rays are stronger during the summer and as they are much shorter in wavelength, they cannot penetrate the skin as well,” says Dr. Jack. “Instead, they cause more visible changes to the skin like redness and sunburn, but they also contribute to skin changes over time.”

What Sun Protection Factor Do I Need?

“The higher the SPF, the more UVB rays it will block. “For adults with medium to tanned complexions, I would recommend using SPF 20 all year round, in the UK and Northern Europe and then stepping up to SPF 30 in peak season,” says Abi Cleeve, founder of Ultrasun. “For fair complexions, it’s safer to stick to SPF 50, and kids should use SPF 30 as a base level and then increase to a 50 or 50+ when going somewhere hot.” The factor number relates to how much UVB a sunscreen filters out. “When it comes to UVA you need to make sure your SPF product includes the words ‘broad spectrum’ as this means covering a broad spectrum of wavelengths,” says Dr. Jack.

What Is The Difference Between A Chemical And Physical Sunscreen?

“Chemical sunscreens are essentially organic chemicals that absorb UV rays and cause them to dissipate in the sun,” says Dr. Jack. This means the UV they absorb changes the chemical structure of the compound to stop it from penetrating deeper into the skin. “Physical sunscreens use salts of metals, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect UV light away from the skin’s surface and stop it from penetrating deeper into the skin and causing damage,” explains Dr Jack.

Both provide effective protection, but physical sunscreens can have a richer texture as they actively stop the sun penetrating the skin by creating a kind of shield. Modern versions still use zinc oxide, which is gentle and tolerated by most skin types, but the next-gen formulas are much easier to apply and no longer leave a white cast like in the past. Chemical sunscreens work more like a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays, they are often lighter and advanced formulas contain many extra skin boosting ingredients. The key is to find a formula your skin is happy with, then you’ll be more likely to apply each day.

How Much SPF Do I Need To Apply?

According to the British Association of Dermatologists, “when using lotions, as the bare minimum you should to apply at least six full teaspoons (approximately 36 grams) to cover the body of an average adult, which is more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen to each arm and the face/neck (including ears), and just over one teaspoon to each leg, front of body and back of body.” It’s also important to reapply regularly if you are in direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time. Don’t forget to apply your sunscreen 15-30 minutes before heading out, they don’t start working immediately.

Do I Need To Wear SPF If It’s Cloudy?

Just because it may not be a gloriously sunny day does not mean you don’t need to wear protection. In fact, it’s best to get in the habit of adding an SPF into your routine all year round. This does not apply to your body since your clothing provides protection in the colder months. “UVB rays are stronger in summertime yes but UVA is present all year round so constant protection is necessary,” advises Dr Jack.

Does SPF Go Out Of Date?

Yes! Applying out-of-date sunscreen can be as dangerous as applying none, as once the preservatives expire, the active ingredients they protect can start to decompose. Always check a product’s shelf life – the average is just 6-12 months. For extra security, use a permanent marker to write the start date on any opened bottles.

What is Reef Safe Sunscreen?

Most of us are aware that protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays is essential, what we’re all just discovering however, is how damaging to the environment some sunscreen formulas are. It’s been revealed that some 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in coral reef areas every year. Hawaii banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate in 2018 in an attempt to protect its coral reefs. Sunscreen is washed away through our water system and nothing filters out the harmful chemicals, meaning that marine life all over the world is affected. Look for sunscreens labelled ‘reef safe’ or choose biodegradable mineral sunscreens which use physical sun blockers such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF30, £24.00 is a reef-friendly, mineral sunscreen with a glowy tint that’s suitable for all skin types. We love the raspberry seed and marula oil enriched formula. Ultra Violette formulas, including Ultra Violette Extreme Screen Hydrating Body & Hand Skinscreen SPF 50+, £27.00, are all free from oxybenzone and octinoxate, as are Coola’s and Caudalie’s to name just a few.

What Is The Best SPF For My Skin Type?

With so many available, it can be rather overwhelming when it comes to finding the perfect SPF for you. As it’s a product you wear every day, we recommend finding an SPF that works for your skin type and sits well under makeup.

For those with deeper skin tones, Dr. Ewoma, medical and cosmetic doctor and founder and CEO of SKNDOCTOR says to avoid purely physical sunscreens. “These formulations are renowned to be ashy on deeper skin tones,” she says. “I generally advise my ethnic clients to use a chemical sunscreen of a mixture of both physical and chemical. I can really vouch for the Shiseido Clear Stick UV Protector SPF 50+, N/A for people of colour.”

What About SPF For My Body?

For warm summer days with more skin on show, we recommend an SPF 30 or above. We love Coola Pina Colada SPF30 Sunscreen Spray, £25.00 which provides easy to apply mist-on, reef safe protection and absorbs into the skin quickly without leaving any greasy residue. Caudalie Milky Sun Spray SPF50, £21.00 not only provides protection but hydration too. For those who need a sunscreen that will withstand an active day, try Ultrasun Sports Spray SPF50, £28.00 – it’s sweatproof, waterproof and so convenient to mist on; it can be applied one-handed and still sprays when upside down.

Posted: Monday, 06 July 2020