SPF – THE CHEAT SHEET
I guarantee if I asked 10 people whether they use SPF on a daily basis 1 or 2 would say occasionally and the rest would say no but I do take sunscreen on holiday, does that count?
Most women will have some sort of SPF added to their daily moisturisers but do you actually know what SPF means and why you need to use it whether you are a man or woman?
If you do not use Sunscreen you are leaving yourself open to premature ageing (wrinkles, sagging, and melanin deposits caused by sun exposure) or worse, skin cancer.
I have created this cheat sheet for you today with everything you need to know about SPF, UVA and UVB rays, why you need SPF and how often you need to use and apply it.
What is SPF?
- SPF is an abbreviation for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of how long sunscreen will protect you from the suns ultra-violet rays. In other words how long your applied sunscreen will work for.
What is the difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30?
- The numbers (15, 30 or 50) stand for the approximate measure of time a person who has applied sunscreen can stay in the sun without getting burned.
- Theoretically if you burn after 20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen an SPF 30 will allow you to sunbathe 30 times longer without burning if you were wearing no protection at all. So you should have around 600 minutes or 10 hours in the sun.
- Unfortunately this isn’t an exact science and there are so many other factors as to why this cannot be taken as gospel so universally it’s recommended you re-apply sunscreen every two hours.
- SPF 15 blocks 96% of UV rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%. There is nothing that will block the sun 100% even if someone states it on on their product.
- All sunscreens protect for the same amount of time. A SPF 15 doesn’t let someone stay outside longer than a SPF 50. All the SPF 50 does is block more rays whilst that person is outside.
- Sunscreens that are labeled with an SPF number higher than 50 have no scientific evidence showing that they offer any more protection than ones with lower numbers (15 -30). I recommend a minimum SPF of 30 and a maximum of 50.
What is UV?
The sun emits ultra-violet radiation in the form of UVA and UVB, below I will explain what each of these are.
- UVB – These are the burning rays and they damage the superficial (top) layer of the skin causing sun burn but also plays a key role in the development of skin cancers. When you are sitting in your garden or on the beach on holiday in the bright sunlight this is when they are most dangerous.
- UVA – These rays penetrate your skin on a much deeper level (the dermis) causing ageing and DNA damage which eventually may lead to skin cancers so ultimately these are the most dangerous and UVA rays can penetrate through clouds so even when you’re walking around on a cloudy day you are at risk from them without protection. Hence the need for daily SPF.
What does Broad Spectrum mean?
- If a sunscreen product states that it is Broad Spectrum then you are covered for both UVA and UVB rays so ultimately this is what you need to look out for when buying. It gives you total protection.
What is the difference between a Chemical Sunscreen and a Physical Sunscreen?
- Physical (or Mineral) SPF works by sitting on the top layer of skin to bounce UV rays away.
- It contains Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide which is why there is sometimes a white cast to these sunscreens but there are plenty of brands that now offer a tint to these sunscreens or really woking out how to illiminate this.
- Both Zinc Oxide and Titanium based sunscreens are a better choice for sensitive skin sufferers as they won’t irritate in the sun.
- Physical SPF creates immediate protection so you can apply and be outside immediately.
- It is also unlikely to clog pores so if you suffered from Acne then this type of sunscreen is a better choice.
- Chemical SPF contain Oxybenzone which works by changing the UV rays into heat then releasing that heat from the skin. It works from the inside out.
- It can take up to 20 minutes to activate so it is advisable to wait until being out in the open before this time.
- They say Chemical SPF doesn’t need to applied as often as Physical so is a better choice for swimmers for if you are going to sweat a lot but there is no evidence of this is so it is advisable to still apply every two hours.
- Oxybenzone can be an irritant and can cause rosacea to occur. It also clogs pores so if you9 suffer from Acne then this might not be a good choice for you.
- There is no SPF on the market that you only need to apply once a day. You need to apply it every two hours to get it’s full potential, no matter the brand
- SPF in my skincare and foundation is enough – No this is not true. Sunscreen is a product that is created to be used on its own so always apply separate to any moisturisers, even if they already contain it.
- Sunscreen is water proof – No it is only water resistant which means you still have to apply every two hours.
- Whilst people with darker skin are more protected against UV light you still need some protection against UVA so will need to use an SPF.
- I only need to protect my face? – Skin cancer loves any part of your body, hands, arms legs, back or feet so even though you’ve covered your face you are still vulnerable elsewhere. Not only cancer but ageing too. Dark spots on the back of your hands? This is sun damage and is a dead giveaway of age!
- The higher the SPF the more effective it is – No, there is only 1% difference between SPF 30 and 50 and like I said above factor 50 only blocks 98% of the suns rays.
- I don’t need to wear SPF in the shade – Not true. UVA and UVB rays can reach the skin indirectly so wearing sunscreen is always necessary.
- Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going outside.
- Men, Women and children all have the same skin so this sunscreen advice applies to all.
- Skin can burn underneath your hair so protection is necessary, wearing a hat will do this. If you are bald then apply to the skin on your head.
- UVA rays can pass through glass so even if you’re driving or sitting inside in front of a window you will still need protection on.
SPF FOR THE FACE
This section is for women or men who wear make up everyday and how to use SPF.
- Moisturisers or foundation that contain SPF is not enough. You will need a stand alone broad spectrum SPF.
- SPF should be the last product applied in your skincare routine and always before your foundation. This will also act as a great primer.
- As we know SPF needs to be re-applied every 2 hours but this is difficult when you have your make up done for the day so find a loose powder with an added UV protection or a 30 factor mist to apply over your face every fews hours to be fully protected.
- You will need to double cleanse in the evenings when wearing SPF to fully remove all the product (check my post on my evening routine here if you are unsure what that is).
- It is very unlikely you’re applying too much sunscreen – most people don’t apply enough. Cue the streaky red marks left when you’ve not applied it evenly and burnt! Apply evenly making sure you have covered all exposed skin.
- Always apply to lips and eye area. Even if you’re wearing sunglasses.
- Use a tablespoon of at least factor 30 for your face alone and around two tables spoons for your body. Basically lay it on thick.
- Apply evenly making sure you have all exposed skin covered.
- SUNSCREEN IS NOT JUST FOR HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN
- By wearing sunscreen correctly—and daily, you’ll not only help prevent burning your skin, you’ll also help prevent sun damage, lessening your dependence on those skin repairing or anti-aging beauty products.
- Sun protection is just as important for Men and Children.
- Skin cancer is non-discriminatory and can be diagnosed for any age, gender, or skin type.
- Throw out and replace sunscreen past its expiration date or if you notice changes in its colour and/or consistency, it will no longer work.
- If you have sensitive skin then stick to a Physical sunscreen containing Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as they will not irritate it as much as a Chemical one.
- There is no product on the market that will protect you for the whole day, even if they have stated it on the product.
- We all know that life gets in the way most of the time and we are all culprits of forgetting to do skin routines etc so having to remember to apply sunscreen every two hours, every day is a lot. Just do your best. Remember your SPF every morning before you do your make up or leaving the house and NEVER forget to apply it of you’re sitting all day in the sun. Try to cover with shade if possible but enjoy it as we don’t get a lot of it here!