What does SPF mean?
Let’s start with the basics, what does SPF stand for exactly? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Using SPF in your skincare routine helps protect your skin from UV rays and the factor helps determine how much and how long the formula is going to protect your skin. When formulating a sunscreen, brands use different types of filters to shield your skin, which will determine what the SPF in the product is. These products are then third-party tested to make sure the factor advertised is real. It is recommended to wear SPF everyday (yes, even in the UK), because rain or shine, UV rays can reach your skin, so it's imperative to keep it protected at all times.
UVA vs UVB rays: What's the Difference?
Speaking of UV rays, what exactly do they do to your skin? There are two main types of UV rays that sunscreens help protect from: UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays have a long wavelength, which means they penetrate into the deeper layers of your skin (the ones you don’t see) and they are responsible for ageing your skin. Although you don’t see the damage caused by these UV rays straight away, once they have made their way into your skin, the signs of ageing can start showing in a few years. “UVA is the silent killer and accounts for over 95% of the rays that reach our skin,” says aesthetic doctor, Dr. David Jack.
UVB rays have a short wavelength, which means that they basically sit on your skin. UVB rays are the ones that tan and burn your skin. These rays are obviously stronger during the spring and summer or any day that the sun is out. Dr. Jack says, “They cause more visible changes to the skin like redness and sunburn, but they also contribute to skin changes over time.”
Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreen
Another factor to take into account when choosing the right sunscreen for your skin is whether you want to go for a mineral or a chemical sunscreen.
What is chemical sunscreen?
“Chemical sunscreens are organic chemicals that absorb UV rays and cause them to dissipate in the sun,” says Dr. Jack. Chemical UV filters are meant to be absorbed by the skin and usually have a similar texture to your face cream and tend to work well under makeup. Chemical sunscreens act like a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays, and often have a lightweight texture and can contain extra skin boosting ingredients.
What is mineral sunscreen?
Mineral, or physical as they're sometimes called, have been making a lot of noise in the past few years as they are deemed to be safer and better. But let’s talk about what mineral sunscreen actually is. “Physical sunscreens use salts of metals, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect UV light away from your skin’s surface and stop it from penetrating deeper into the skin and causing damage,” explains Dr. Jack. Modern mineral sunscreens still use zinc oxide, which is gentle and tolerated by most skin types, but they are much easier to apply and no longer leave a heavy, white cast. Mineral sunscreen is also reef-safe, so if you’re going on a holiday and are likely to be spending a lot of time in the sea, go for mineral. The bottle will usually say reef-safe or reef-friendly on it.
You can go for either chemical or physical sunscreen as there is no right or wrong answer. The key is to find a formula your skin is happy with as you’ll be more likely to apply each day.
The Benefits of SPF• SUN PROTECTION: Starting with obvious but important one, SPF protects your skin from the sun and the UV rays. We might love having a nice tan and soaking up the sun when it’s out, but keeping it protected is essential. Plus, wearing sunscreen won't completely prevent your skin from tanning, but if you apply it regularly enough it will keep it from burning, especially if your skin doesn’t produce a lot of melanin naturally. Aside from being really painful, sunburns can actually leave permanent damage on your skin that can be tricky to get rid of.
• ANTI-AGEING: As we mentioned before, UVA rays are responsible for speeding up your skin’s ageing process, so you want to make sure you wear SPF to keep early signs of ageing at bay - the future you will thank you, trust us. Even though you don’t see results straight away, you are doing your skin a huge favour by wearing a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
• FIGHTS PIGMENTATION: Because we all have our pre-existing skin problems, we don’t want the sun and UV rays to make it any worse. Pigmentation, no matter what the cause can be, is already difficult to fade and get rid of and UV rays can actually make it worse. Applying a generous layer of sunscreen on the face will make a big difference and create a barrier between your skin and UV rays to keep pigmentation to get darker because of the sun. If this is something you struggle with, we highly recommend wearing SPF 50 daily to help with your skin’s healing process.
How much Sunscreen Should I Use?
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're in direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time. Don’t forget to apply your sunscreen 15-30 minutes before heading out as it won’t start working immediately.
When Should I Apply and Reapply Sunscreen?
In your skincare routine, sunscreen should always be the last step, AKA the top layer of your morning skincare routine to really protect your skin from UV rays. Applying another skincare product on top of your SPF could cancel out the effects as it would spread the formula unevenly on your face.
As for reapplication, it is recommended to reapply your SPF every 2-3 hours for optimal protection throughout the day (yes, even on top of your makeup). You can opt for an SPF spray, or you can even use a blending sponge to reapply gently. If you know you’re going to be in the sun, remember that UV filters don't offer protection straight away, so give yourself plenty of time to make sure your skin is always protected.
Best Sunscreens to Buy for Summer 2022
Best SPF for your face: Hello Sunday The One That's A Serum - Face Drops: SPF 45, £20.00
These SPF drops are perfect for daily use and go on super smoothly at the end of your skincare routine. If you wear makeup, the texture also works perfectly under your base.
Best SPF to fight pollution: Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50, £60.00
If you live in a busy city and want to protect your skin from environmental stressors as well as UV rays, this Murad SPF 50 sun cream is for you. This formulation will protect your skin from the effects of the sun and the damage that pollution can do to your skin.
Best mineral sunscreen: Dr. Dennis Gross All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30, £46.00
Keen to go the mineral or physical route? This Dr. Dennis Gross sun cream is formulated with transparent zinc oxide, which means that it doesn’t leave any white cast and works for all skin tones. If you have dark skin and have been trying to find a mineral sunscreen, this one is for you.
Best SPF for your body: Coola SPF50 Organic Classic Body Sunscreen, £25.00 Because sun protection for the body is just as important as for the face, Coola has created the perfect formula that can be sprayed on making application easy. If you’re looking for a similar product for the face, the brand also has Coola Makeup Setting Spray Organic Sunscreen SPF 30, £39.00, which is effortless to reapply throughout the day.
Best SPF Set: Space NK The Essential SPF Edit Box, £42.00 If you're new to SPF and don't know what you should buy, no need to look further because we curated the perfect set for you. Get your skin fully ready for the summer sun with some of our favourite Sun & Tan products, from protecting your skin with SPF to enhancing your glow with dreamy tanning drops. The Space NK SPF Box is the ideal combination of products to use and reuse daily this summer.
Our Final Thoughts on SPF
There’s a lot that can be said about the benefits of SPF, but one thing we hope you keep in mind is the importance of wearing SPF daily, no matter what the weather is like. UV rays are ruthless and will not miss out on the opportunity to get to your skin. There are a lot of good sunscreens out there, find one that works well for your skin tone and type and make it part of your daily skincare routine.
Read More• The Best Way To Apply SPF
• SPF For Dark Skin Tones • How Much Sunscreen Do I Need?
• Best Sweat Proof Makeup Products • Best Self Tan Products