We are truly blessed to live in a place which is graced by such glorious weather, however, with endless sunshine also comes the increased risk of sun burn. Especially in the summer months when UV levels really peak.
We all know how important it is to wear SPF and to protect ourselves when out in the sun. After all, we now live in an age where there is an increased awareness of the danger posed by an overexposure to UV rays. Not only is protection from the sun the most valuable antiaging step you can introduce into your skincare routine but it will also be protecting you from other more sinister risks such as skin cancer.
So how can we best protect ourselves from harmful UV rays? Slapping on the SPF is of course the best place to start but that in itself can be a bit of a mine field. Granted, the fact that we should be wearing SPF is well ingrained in us but what isn’t so clear is how much we should be applying. So how much sunscreen really is enough sunscreen?
How methodical are most of us when it comes to re-applying?
What Does the ‘Factor’ Mean?
SPF literally stands for Sun Protection Factor. A common mistake lies in just relying on the level of factor you are using. It is true that a factor 50 will offer more protection than a factor 15, but what many do not realise is that the factors refer to the amount of time you are protected. The higher the factor, the longer you will be protected for. This is calculated by taking into account how long it takes a patch of skin to burn without SPF (which can very from person to person) and multiplying it by the level of your SPF. For example, if someone is likely to burn after ten minutes out in the sun, wearing an SPF 20 would protect them over three hours (200 minutes).
Although this might sound like an adequate level of protection the truth is that it is not safe to rely on the level of the SPF factor alone as the likelihood is that this is not being applied and re-applied in the necessary levels to offer flawless protection. If we are being painfully honest, how methodical are most of us when it comes to re-applying? When you team this with sweat, sand and swims it is highly unlikely all of your sunscreen actually stayed on for the length of period for which it was meant to offer protection. For this reason, skincare experts usually advise that as a rule of thumb you always opt for at least an SPF 30, upping this to SPF 50 in the summer months.
A Question of Application
The secret lies in the levels of application and re-application. To get the level of protection advertised on a bottle you would have to replicate how the sunscreen is tested in the lab. This is usually 2 milligrams per square centimetre and dermatologists predict that most of us are probably only applying about half of that. Thus, slashing the protection promised by the ‘factor’ on the bottle in half. This is why re-applying throughout the day is so important.
The body is divided by a dermatologist into eleven sections, this is known as the ‘rule of 9’s’. This is typically used to estimate areas of the skin which are affected by burns and other skin conditions. Each of the eleven body parts make up about 9% of your total body surface. Your head, neck and face is one area for example, your left arm is another, then your right, and so on.
It is estimated that you need at least two ‘fingertip units’ of sunscreen for each body area to ensure adequate protection. The ‘fingertip unit’ is calculated by literally pouring a line of sunscreen from the base to the tip of your index or middle fingers. Two fingertip units are recommended for each of the eleven sections. For an entire adult body this equals to about one shot glass full of sunscreen.
It is also way too easy to neglect places like your ears and elbows when applying sunscreen so try and keep those in mind too.
Sunscreen in Makeup
A common myth is that the SPF in your foundation or tinted moisturiser has you covered. Yes, it offers added protection, but it should only be considered as a bonus and should not be relied on as your only defence against sun exposure. When we consider that it takes 2 milligrams per square centimetre of SPF to offer the correct level of protection it very quickly becomes clear that it is almost impossible to apply this amount of foundation. To even get remotely close to that amount your makeup would really have to be caked on and who would want to put that to the test?
When it comes to sunscreen more really is more. Here are some of my favourite high-factor picks:
Garnier Ambre Solaire SPF 50 50ml, £2.99
Garnier Ambre Solaire’s Hydra 24 range is packed with shea butter to keep your skin hydrated and nourished as well as protected. I love that it works well for both face and body. I always pick up a travel size so I can ensure there is always a tube in my bag for on the go top ups.
Piz Buin Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF 30 200ml, £6.50
This classic brand is my go-to SPF for long beach days. I go through bottles of the stuff in Summer and the budget price makes that less painful! Its highly effective, non-sticky and also moisturising.
Heliocare Ultra Gel, £24
This is my favourite facial spf brand to wear all year round. It’s lightweight, non-greasy and leaves a subtle glow. It also sits fabulously under makeup.
Nuxe Sun Melting Spray for Face and Body SPF 50, £21
If you want a sunscreen that screams holiday then Nuxe will definitely deliver. They have a range which caters to both body and face with scents that will transport you to more tropical climes.