Which Sun Screen?

Spring is well underway and the days are getting longer and warmer. Now is the time to stock up on new sunscreen products and clear out your old ones.

But did you know that even on cloudy, overcast, dull days and through the winter months you still need to wear sunscreen? But why? I hear you ask, even when it’s not sunny?

It is the UV light that tans and potentially burns your skin. UV light is constantly emitted by the sun, even on a cloudy day when the cloud blocks out the sunshine, the cloud cover will not block the UV light. Staying behind glass will not protect you from the suns UV rays. Just because the sun is stronger in the summertime the UV rays are strong all year.

So, you’ve decided to go shopping for sunscreen and are faced with quite a wide range of sun protection products. The sheer quantity of different products available can be bamboozling! What SPF to choose? Spray or cream? Do I need it waterproof? The list is endless…..!

Here are some pointers to help make that choice easier for you:

1) UVA and UVB rays.
You need to choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB. It is the exposure to UVA that will result is premature aging making the skin wrinkle encouraging age spots while the UVB burns the skin. Over exposure to either will increase your risk of skin cancer.

2) The SPF is the Sun Protection Factor.
This is how long you can stay in the sun before you skin will burn and also tells you the percentage of UV light that is filtered. So an SPF30 (when applied as directed) will filter 97% of UVB. Although SPF15 is half the number it does not give you half the protection, it filters around 93% and an SPF50 will only give a small increase of protection, around 98%, compared to the SPF30. Sometimes the higher number can give the user a false sense of security. However if your skin is super sensitive any small increase in protection should be taken.
Each person’s skin will burn at a slightly different rate. So the theory is…. if you usually see reddened skin after 20mins of sun exposure then SPF15 will give you 15 times the protection than if you used nothing at all – that’ll be about 5 hours. SPF30 gives 30 times and SPF50 gives 50 times. However it is still best to reapply every 2hours or after contact with water either swimming or sweating.

3) Reflections.
Sand, water and snow will all reflect the sun’s rays and will increase the risk of burning.

4) Water resistant sunscreens
Upon contact with water these only really stay put for about 40mins (or as the label states). After swimming you will need to reapply straight after getting out the pool or sea. Even sweat will ‘wash’ away the sun cream so you will need to reapply after and during your physical activity. Even if that is before the 2 hours is up or your predicted protection time has expired.

5) A spray or cream?
For optimum sun protection you need to apply 1.5oz of cream (for an average adult) to your skin, this is difficult to judge at the best of times, least of all on holiday while on the beach! The spray is quicker and easier to apply especially on children. The cream tends to take longer to apply and rub into the skin, they go on thicker and can feel sticky. However if you are not applying sufficient sun protection and you do not have a thick enough layer on your skin, this will diminish the SPF of that product regardless of what it states on the packaging.

6) Other choices..
Some lotions and creams also include fake tan too so you can top-up a fake tan while protecting from a suntan.
Others also claim to repair and condition the skin, good for acne prone skin, and can have aromatherapy benefits.
I personally like the ones with an insect repellent built in! I get eaten alive!

Good luck, enjoy the sunshine but don’t burn!


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