Health & wellbeing

SPF and UV protection: Five things you should know

21 Jul 2023 | Written by The Joy Club

It can be easy to get lost – or even led astray by clever marketing – amidst the ever-growing selection of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) products. To make your next trip to your local pharmacy easier, we’ve broken down the key things you need to know about SPF, enabling you to find the best products to keep your skin safe this summer…

SPF is not just for the summer 

Common sense would suggest that SPF is only necessary when your exposure to UV is likely to be high (i.e. during the sunnier months). However, it is important to apply SPF to your face even during the colder months because any exposure to UV is likely to damage your skin. 

During the winter – and any overcast days – applying an SPF 15 product under your moisturiser should be sufficient. However, during the warmer seasons, you may want to consider more carefully what level of SPF you require to best protect your skin (more on this later…). 

The difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens 

It’s highly likely that the SPF currently collecting dust at the bottom of your washbag is a chemical sunscreen. These work by converting UVA and UVB rays into heat. However, they need time to absorb fully into your skin, which means you will need to apply chemical sunscreens 20-30 minutes before venturing out into the sunshine. 

If you want a quick fix and prefer to keep your skincare regime eau natural, mineral sunscreen is for you. It sits on the skin, deflecting UVB rays and takes effect immediately. Our resident skincare guru, Clare Pinkney, recommends mineral sunscreens for those who suffer from eczema or rosacea – as these products are less likely to aggravate sensitive skin.

About that sunscreen you’ve been carting to and from the beach for the past few years.. There’s a high chance it’s exceeded its shelf life and won’t be as effective as it was the year you bought it. Be sure to invest in a fresh bottle this year to protect your skin as much as possible.

SPF 30 v. SPF 50

All SPF products come with a number – 15, 30 or 50 are the most common. But what do these numbers actually mean?

These numbers indicate how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product, versus if you were to wear no SPF products at all. For example, with an SPF 30 product, your skin should take 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. 

An SPF 30 allows about 3% of UVB rays to hit your skin. An SPF of 50 allows about 2% of those rays through. This 1% difference may seem negligible, the SPF 30 is actually allowing 50% more UV radiation onto your skin than an SPF 50 product.

How often you should reapply SPF 

It would be fair to assume that an SPF 50 product will give you longer lasting protection from UV than an SPF 30 product. However, the Skin Cancer Foundation states that ‘products with very high SPFs often create a false sense of security.’

Regardless of whether you’re applying SPF 30 or SPF 50, you should reapply your sunscreen once every two hours – or immediately after that sweaty hike or soak in the sea. 

You CAN still tan whilst wearing SPF 

Many of us are guilty of using the sunshine as an opportunity to get a tan. Despite the many risks associated with UV exposure, we may still be inclined to sun ourselves in pursuit of that post-holiday bronzed look. 

Rest assured, you can still achieve this look (albeit on a subtler level) whilst ALSO keeping your skin safe from UVB rays. Wearing SPF won’t prevent you from tanning, but it will greatly reduce the risks associated with UV exposure. 

To learn more about which SPF products will keep your skin safe, grease-free and glowing, take a look at celebrity makeup artist Clare Pinkney’s ‘Sunny days: Makeup and UV protection’ recording. Here, Clare shares her expert advice on which SPF products to invest in this summer…

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