Barely a day goes by that we are not asked about Sun protection factor at the clinic. This is a notoriously complex and confusing subject. The environment in which we live in is changing rapidly. Scientific research is constantly evolving and there is a constant stream of new developments and knowledge. Add to that the fact that consumers are inundated with often conflicting information and marketing strategies, it is no wonder there is still confusion on this immensely important subject.
Don’t let uncertainty deter you from making the right choice. It is essential that you are using the right SPF to protect from skin cancer, premature and/or advanced photo aging, pigmentation, sunspots and of course burning (yikes). This article is aimed at pointing you in the right direction and dispelling some widely misguided myths.
Remember “prevention is better than cure”.
Meet the ‘Rays’
UVA This is the Aging ray and is present all year even when there is no sun! It causes skin damage and aging and can also cause burning.
UVB This is the Burning ray. These rays cause sunburn and play a major role in causing skin cancer.
HEV This is the Energy ray. HEV stands for High Energy Visible, otherwise known as ‘blue light’. We are surounded by blue light all the time, even the sun emits it, but the more contentious rays are coming from our smartphones, computers, Tv screens and street lights, zapping our energy and our skin ! Research has shown that this light can penetrate further into the skin than UVA and UVB (ultraviolet) combined.
The SPF number indicates how long the sun UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product versus the amount of time without any sunscreen. So with an SFF of 30 for example it would take you 30 times longer to burn that if you were not wearing any sunscreen.
An SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin. An SPF of 50 allows about 2 percent of those rays through. That’s a noticeably small difference however SPF 30 is allowing 50 percent more UV radiation onto your skin.
It is not always the case that SPF means you “have it covered”. A high factor can sometimes create a false sense of security. People who use them tend to stay out in the sun much longer. They don’t wear a hat or seek shade. They don’t reapply and this defeats the entire purpose.
The Skin cancer foundation recommends a water resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher for extended outdoor activity.
Wearing makeup with broad spectrum UVA and UVB with SPF 30 is a great way of getting some extra protection. Pure mineral makeup should also be considered as it contains highly revered natural ingredients Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide which reflect the sun.
Know your type
Physical sunscreens reflect the sun.
Chemical sunscreens absorb the suns rays.
We stock a wide range of skin cancer approved sunscreens and makeup to suit every skin type lifestyle and preference.
Things you should never do
Don’t assume ‘water resistant’ means ‘water proof’. You must reapply.
Don’t rely on once a day. There’s no universal standard that manufactures have to adhere to when making a ‘once a day claim’. They are now moving away from this misleading term and favouring the term ‘durable’ sunscreen.
Don’t buy one that is greasy sticky or too liquid. If it’s not nice to use you won’t use it.
Don’t apply too little. A full- body application on a typical adult should be about 35ml, so approximately seven teaspoons. For the face and neck you will need about one teaspoon. More if you need to apply to your head.
Don’t use SPF as an excuse to stay in the sun for longer. There is no such thing as a ‘health tan’. Any tan is a sign that your skin has been damaged. You should wear a sunscreen alongside sunglasses, a hat, clothing and breaks in the shade.
Enjoy the sun knowing you are protected, if in doubt reapply. We welcome any questions you may have and hope you have a safe summer.
Laser and skin specialist