Do you know your UV from your SPF? Find the perfect factor for your skin tone so you can stay safe in the sun.
By Dr Joanna Gach
We all know it’s important to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but do you know your UV from your SPF, what the ratings really mean and how often you should reapply?
Dr Joanna Gach from Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull, explains how to choose the perfect sunscreen for your skin:
How does sunscreen work?
There are two types of sun cream depending on their mode of action due to different ingredients.
☀️ Mechanical sunscreens: the first is known as mechanical and tends to look white on the skin due to the ingredients like zinc or titanium oxide, as they reflect or scatter the UV radiation.
☀️ Chemical sunscreens: the second group is known as chemical sunscreens. They do not leave a white film on the skin, they change the UV radiation into heat which is released from the skin.
Should you wear sunscreen all year round?
Exposure of our skin to UV radiation is required for production of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones, teeth, nails, hair and good mood.
People who would like to have younger looking skin should consider wearing a sunscreen all year round.
However, too much sun exposure is linked to higher rates of skin cancer later in life and also accelerated sun-induced ageing of skin which presents with changes in skin texture, wrinkles and pigmented marks on skin.
People who would like to have younger looking skin for longer, ought to consider wearing a sunscreen all year round. However, this may require changes in diet to have more food containing vitamin D or take vitamin D supplements all year round.
Choosing the right sunscreen for you
Sun cream helps to extend the time before your skin will burn while being out in the sun. To choose the right sun cream, look at both the sun protection factor (SPF) number and the star rating. The higher the SPF, the longer protection while exposed to the sun.
Choose a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 and 4-5 stars for UVA protection.
However, there is no such this as total sun block; the protective effect of your sun cream depends on the thickness of the layer that has been applied and activities that are being carried out.
Sweating, friction and swimming will all reduce the protective effect.
The star rating for UVA protection can be between 0 and 5, where 5 is the best protection. Choose a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 and 4-5 stars for UVA protection.
How often should you reapply sunscreen?
Your sun cream should be applied before going out into the sun and reapplied after it is wiped or rubbed off from swimming or sweating. It is therefore reasonable to reapply sun cream every couple of hours while on a beach holiday.
⚠️ If you notice any changes to your skin or you are in any way concerned, make an appointment with your GP.
What’s the risk of not wearing sunscreen?
We are at risk of sunburn if we don’t apply sun cream when in the sun or on a warm day. This is painful and the severity varies between redness, itchiness, difficulty sleeping and a blistering sunburn.
Later on the skin develops ageing freckles and more wrinkles. There is also a risk of cumulative sun damage leading to different types of skin cancer.