A dermatologist answers all your SPF questions. Take note.
While suncare may seem like a simple topic, many of us are still putting our skin at risk by applying protection incorrectly - if at all. With rates of skin cancer rising, it's beyond time to get clued up. Let consultant dermatologist Maria Roest take you back to basics by answering some frequently asked questions about shielding your skin from the sun.
How do I know which SPF I should be using?
The SPF (sun protection factor) number that you see on your bottle of sun cream relates directly to how long your skin is protected from the sun's rays. Of course, everyone's skin has a different level of sensitivity to the sun and will therefore burn at different rates. If your skin type allows you to stay in the sun for 10 minutes without burning, then most commonly, wearing SPF50 will indicate that your skin will be protected for 50 x longer (500 minutes). This of course is dependent on your skin and specific level of sensitivity. It is important to remember to avoid spending too much time in the sun when it is at its hottest, between 11 am and 3 pm.
What is the different between a SPF number and a UVA star rating?
While the SPF number gives an indication of how long your skin is protected from burning by UVB rays while out in the sun, a UVA star rating tells you the protection your sun cream gives against sun ageing UVA rays. The two measures are completely different and are only accurate when you apply enough sun cream!
Is it only UV rays that I need to be protecting my skin against?
Unfortunately not, Infrared-A rays are also a component of the sun's rays. These are the most deeply penetrating of all rays and make up 30% of the sun's rays. Recent studies suggest infrared-A rays may cause harmful effects to the skin. They have a longer wavelength which means they can more easily penetrate to the lower levels of the dermis. Free radicals are formed which can lead to damage of the elastic supporting layers of the skin. In a survey by Ladival, 80% of people said they didn't know Infrared-A even existed as a form of radiation from the sun. Using a sun cream such as Ladival, which protects your skin from Infrared-A rays as well as UV, will give you broader spectrum protection.
Do I really need to wear sun cream?
Yes! The sun's rays can be damaging anywhere. We receive about 10% of our total yearly UV exposure during the winter months, so the harmful effects of the sun are much reduced during this period, but it is still important to protect your skin. When asked, a quarter of people revealed that they only wear sun protection on holiday. It is important that you wear a sun cream daily, even under make-up which may contain SPF protection. Look for a sun cream which is non-greasy and absorbed quickly into the skin."
I tan easily and hardly ever burn, do I still need to wear sun cream?
There is no such thing as a safe suntan. Having a suntan suggests sun injury has occurred and the skin has taken measures to try and protect itself from further damage. Just because you tan at the sight of the sun doesn't mean that you shouldn't be protecting your skin. Aside from the cancer risks associated with sun damage, harmful rays can also cause premature ageing and pigmentation – even more reason to be wearing sun cream.
My sun cream says it is water resistant, why do I have to re-apply it after swimming?
If a sun cream says it is water resistant it means that it will keep working to protect your skin while you are in the water. This is essential as the water surface reflects UV radiation from the sun, increasing your chances of burning. No sun cream is 100% waterproof and some will get washed away with water immersion. It is always recommended that to maintain maximum protection, sun cream is re-applied after swimming. Even sun creams that say they only need to be applied once a day should be re-applied after swimming.
How much sun cream should I be using on each application?
We have all been there, thinking you have applied plenty of sun cream, only to realise the sun seems to have had the better of you. So how much sun cream should you actually be using on each application?
You need to use more than you might think. Many of us use less sunscreen than we should, the result is that the SPF 50 sunscreen we have applied, actually gives us the equivalent protection of SPF 15-30 as it has not been applied generously enough. The NHS recommend using two teaspoons of sun cream to cover your head, arms and neck. If you are wearing a swimsuit, they recommend two tablespoons (or a shot glass) worth to cover your entire body. Don't forget that you should be reapplying frequently when in the sun and after swimming.
Applying sun cream clogs up my pores and makes me feel sticky. Is there an alternative?
Many people feel that using sun protection can clog their pores and lead to spots particularly if it doesn't allow the skin to breath. This can be particularly problematic with thicker greasier products. Those with sensitive skin or reactive skin should look for sun creams that suit their skin. We recommend AlumierMD which contains no preservatives, perfumes, colorants, fats, parabens or PEG emulsifiers. AlumierMD has six different sunscreens you can choose from, from tinted to untinted and oil-free, sheer and matte finish.