At any time of year we have the lure of foreign travel and if we are lucky a few days of sunshine in the UK too. If you are anything like me you like it hot but not too hot and not sticky but those rays of sunshine do wonders for the soul. Unfortunately those wonderful rays can also damage our skin.
I know we have all been around since when our mums sent us out as children without sun screen and we survived, but I have to admit I do look at my rather speckled arms and think I wish I had used sun screen when I was younger. Well at least we can try and look after our skin now; there are still unfortunately statistics showing increases in skin cancer but it is never too late to protect your skin.
I had misconceptions about which sun factor to use and what the star ratings were so I have done some research and come up with the following – I hope it is of help
Which sunscreen to choose
There are many different types on the market and I am not going to favour one brand over another but I will say do not even consider buying less than factor 15. According to recent research we aren’t exactly very good at putting it on in the first place let alone reapplying it during the day so putting a low sun factor on is not really worth applying at all.
Sun exposure depends on
Time of day – 10am – 3pm recommended stay out of the sun time
Where you are travel the world – wet UK v sunny Caribbean
Weather conditions – damage can still occur through clouds
Length of time outside – the SFP indicates the extra time in the sun before your skin begins to burn. You do have to know what that “time” is for your skin type as a dark skin will take longer to burn than a fair skin.
Your skin colour – fair skin has less melanin and burns faster despite sunscreen
The application of sunscreen- and the frequency of reapplication
I know I shouldn’t say this but if the gentlemen out there are anything like my husband it is you boys who are the worst for putting on the sun screen. Comments like “the suns not hot enough to burn after four” or “I don’t need a hat” need to take note. – actually I found a sunscreen spray for the scalp this year which was excellent it wasn’t sticky so if the hat was refused a quick squirt helped protect those thinner areas that we normally don’t refer to!
What is UVA and UVB sunlight and what does the damage?
You don’t have to travel to have sun damage. Both UVA and UVB cause skin damage, both contribute to melanoma. The damage is to the skin cells DNA and your body’s response to this damage is to get rid of the damaged cells, this is why your skin peels when you have been over exposed.
UVA – causes premature skin ageing and wrinkles – contributes to skin cancer –melanoma – penetrates glass
UVB – causes sunburn, cataracts and can harm the immune system -contributes to skin cancer – melanoma –does not penetrate glass
What is “sun factor” (SPF)?
Stands for Sun Protection Factor – this is the extended time which you can expose your skin to the suns UVA/UVB prior to it burning.
If your skin type usually burns after 10 minutes sun exposure then a lotion with SFP20 will allow you to expose your skin for 20 times longer. It is a rough science if you do not know your usual burn time – and who is honestly going to sit out in the sun until they burn to calculate it? I personally go by the fact that my pale pasty skin has not been exposed to any sun for 11 months of the year so put on a high SFP for the first week and work down to SFP 15 by the end of the second.
Make sure your sunscreen is in date it only has a shelf life of 2-3 years then the chemicals used to protect the skin become inactive. Also keep it in the shade heat affects it too.
What is a broad spectrum sunscreen?
This means the product is are affectively blocking UVA and UVB rays.
Organic chemical components mean that UV light is absorbed and inorganic mean that they are reflected away.
What does the Star Rating mean?
The star rating was developed by Prof.Brian Diffey and relates to the UVA protection in a sunscreen one star providing the least protection with five as the best.
What is the difference between Sunblock and Sunscreen Lotions?
Sunblock is stronger and more resilient and able to block out most of UVA/UVB sun rays and does not need to be reapplied as often
Sunscreen is broken down more quickly and needs to be regularly reapplied
We recommend when you travel or even out in the garden in a UK summer buying sunscreens with:
a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 – the higher the factor of sunscreen the better
“ broad-spectrum” sunscreens with a star rating of four stars or more
Also look out for brands that:
have not gone past their expiry date – most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2-3 years
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