How to Stay Safe in the Sun!
Guide on Sun Safety Tips, Labeling, and Suncream Suggestions.
It’s finally Summer, time to bring out the beach towels and sunhats. But most importantly also the sun protection.
Sunscreen/Suncream/Sunblock however you call it, is one of the most important products to have in anyone’s skincare routine. Regardless of how hot it actually feels, and in Britain that’s rarely, you can still receive sun damage. This not only increases the risk of skin cancer, but ages the skin. The most effective way to combat aging is with sun protection!
However it can get confusing with all the different labels and protection offered, SPF, UVB, PA++, and can leave you feeling a little WTF. Which product should I be using?
In this mini guide I hope to dispel the confusion and share some great tips for staying safe in the sun. So you can relax this summer.
The Sun is not your Enemy
First is the important point that the Sun is not your enemy. There are health benefits to getting a daily dose of sunshine.
Vitamin D which is necessary for good health, is mainly obtained from sunlight.
You only need a short period of time, though this varies based on environment, skin exposure and skin colour. 10-15 minutes is the recommended time for lighter skinned people. People with darker skin will need to spend more time in the sun to get Vitamin D of the same level.
(NHS Article – Vitamin D Sunlight)
(NHS Article – Sunlight Exposure Sunlight Exposure)
Basic Sun Safety Tips
This is probably going to be old hat to many of you, and very much common sense.
But here are some basic tips.
- Put suncream on before you dress, chemical suncream needs 20 minutes to sink in before your skin is fully protected
- Spend time in the shade during peak sun hours of 11am to 3pm
- Cover up with suitable clothing such as T-Shirts and Sunglasses
- Reapply suncream during the day as needed
- Stay hydrated
Most suncream has a shelf life of 2 to 3 years. Check the expiry date and make sure yours is still effective.
Check out this chart from the Aim Melanoma Foundation for more detail:
How Much Should I Use?
You should be applying two teaspoons for just the head, arms and legs.
Two tablespoons or 6 teaspoons if you’re covering your entire body.
SPF protection in make up is not adequate protection on it’s own, as it’s applied too thinly in most cases.
Read more on the NHS Website – Being Sun Safe Read Here
Acronyms and Labels, What do they Mean?
SPF is short for Sun Protection Factor, pretty straight forward right. However this label only refers to the protection from UVB rays only. SPF ratings indicate how much more time it would take for your skin to get burnt when exposed to UVB.
Let’s take a suncream with SPF 15. If it takes 10 minutes for your skin to get burnt, wearing this suncream will offer you 2 hours and 10 minutes of protection (10 minutes times 15). With that in mind it’s clear to see that suncreams offering protection above 50 are more about marketing than actual protection. The FDA proposed that suncreams with SPF values greater than 50 should only be labelled as 50+. As there’s no substantial evidence that product with SPFs greater than 50 provided additional protection compared to SPF 50.
(FDA Guidelines – Read Here)
This is based on laboratory conditions. In real life you sweat, rub your skin or get wet. So it’s important to re-apply every 2-3 hours if doing sports.
- Low protection 6 to 14 (i.e. SPF 6 and 10)
- Medium protection 15 to 29 (i.e. SPF 15, 20 and 25)
- High protection 30 to 50 (i.e. SPF 30 and 50)
- Very high protection 50 + (i.e. SPF 50+)
Ultraviolet B. This is the type of UV ray which causes burns. Mainly affects the outer layer of the skin, also responsible for skin cancer. Protection from UVB is shown by the SPF rating.
Ultraviolet A. This is the type of UV ray which penetrates deep into the skin and is mostly responsible for skin cancer, and aging of the skin. This type of ray can also penetrate through windows.In Europe, look out for the UVA star for the protection offered by that suncream, the other indicator of UVA protection is PA+.
The stars range from 0 to 5, and indicate the ratio of UVA absorbtion compared to UVB. So a low level spf suncream can have a high number of stars, as the ratio between the UVA and UVB is about the same.
Protection against UVA can also be indicated by the PA with a plus sign. The more plus signs the stronger the protection offered. PA++++ is the strongest protection available.
No suncream is fully “waterproof” but they can be classed as resistant. These suncreams are usually effective for up to 40 minutes while sweating or swimming. But remember that suncream can be rubbed off by towel drying, it’s important to re-apply.
Types of Suncream
Broad Spectrum:This means that your suncream offers both UVA and UVB protection.
Chemical: Contains UV filtering ingredients that require time to be absorbed into the skin. These can include such ingredients as avobenzone and Benzophenone. Apply chemical sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure. They work by creating a chemical reaction and changing UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin. Often referred to as “chemical or organic absorbers)
+ Thinner, More Wearable Under Cosmetics
+ Less Needed
– Wait Time of 20 Minutes
– May Clog Pores
– Higher SPF = Greater Chance of Irritation
– Might not be Photostable
Physical: Contains inert UV protective ingredients (such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide) to form a protective barrier on top of the skin. Mineral sunscreen has an immediate effect.These suncreams are referred to as “physical blockers”.
+ Offers Broad Based Protection (naturally protecting against UVA and UVB rays)
+ Better for Sensitive Skin (e.g. those with rosacea) – less likely to be stinging or cause irritation
+ Longer Shelf Life
– White Cast
– Not Sweat Resistant
– More Needed
The ones I’m going to recommend are the broad spectrum (protecting against UVA and UVB) as well as a mix of physical and chemical. They’re the best at providing a broad base protecion against sun damage. However if you know you have sensitive skin you should look to physical over chemical ones. Milks tend to be the ones which are water/sweat resistant.
Broad Spectrum, Mix of Physical and Chemical Suncream
- Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel SPF50 PA++++. Amazon £6.70
- Biore UV Perfect Milk SPF50 PA++++. YesStyle £10.71
- Innisfree Eco Safety Perfect Waterproof Sunblock SPF 50 PA+++. Korea Depart $12.66
- Missha All-Around Safe Block Waterproof Sun Milk SPF 50 PA+++. Missha US $13.20
- Nivea Sun Protect Plus Skin Creamy UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++. Amazon$15.60
- Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV SPF50. Amazon $29.10
And check out the other blog posts about suncream in #ABSEE! The Asian Beauty Link Party. This week hosted by Leavesofyves