The Importance of SPF
As the weather starts to warm up, and the sun begins to shine the simple answer to summer beauty is glowing golden brown skin. There are plenty of reasons to love the sun, a couple of which are that it boosts our levels of serotonin revitalising and uplifting our moods and produces vitamin D, which is great for the mind, bones and skin.
However, with the good comes the bad; over exposure from the sun can lead to premature ageing and a higher risk of different forms of skin cancer. Research has shown that whilst we might think we know how to safely obtain that sun-kissed glow, our lack of understanding of sun creams means that most of us are not getting the protection our skin needs. According to a survey of 2,000 British adults, conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, only 8% knew the true meaning of the SPF rating on a skincare label. They also did not know that a completely separate star rating indicated the level of protection from harmful UVA rays. Do you know your UVA from your UVB, or what SPF really means? Here we will break it down for you with an emphasis on the importance of SPF, which will prepare you for a fabulous healthy summer glow.
Sun care terminology:
- SPF: SPF is an acronym for sun protection factor and refers to mainly to UVB rays only, and more accurately reflects the sunburn potential potential factor. The number indicates the level of protection offered, the scale ranges from 2 to 50+, with 50+ offering the strongest form of protection. The stars on sunfactor range from 0 to 5 and indicate the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB. It is important to use a broad spectrum SPF which protects against UVA and UVB radiation or an SPF of 30 with 4-5 stars in addition to protective shade and clothing. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation, SPF 30 blocks out 97% of UVB radiation.
- UVA + UVB: UV radiation is transmitted from the sun in 3 wavelengths, UVA, UVB and UVC (UVC rays are the most harmful of the 3, however the radiation does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere so we do not need to protect against it). UVA rays (think A for ageing) are the ones associated with skin ageing and wrinkles, and account for up to 95% of UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. UVA radiation will affect the elastin in the skin, leading to wrinkles and sun induced ageing such as leathery skin and brown pigmentation, as well as skin cancer. UVA rays can penetrate the skin even in cloudy, rainy weather. UVB rays (think B for Burn) are responsible for sunburn and can be linked to malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma risk (types of skin cancer). This type of radiation can affect you more quickly than UVA and will the damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers causing the skin to become red with overexposure.
- Physical Sunscreen: Physical sunscreen blocks UV radiation immediately. They usually contain titanium or zinc oxide and work by reflecting the sun rays. This is the preferred protection for younger children. It can leave a white film on the face if it is not micronized.
- Chemical Sunscreen: Chemical sunscreens act as a filter to inhibit UV radiation penetration and needs to be absorbed 30 minutes before sun exposure. It is more difficult to have broad spectrum protection with chemical sunscreens.
UV rays are responsible for the many visible signs of ageing, redness and inflammation. Aside from the well-known uncomfortable sensation of sunburn, other side effects of unprotected sun exposure can include spider veins on the face or neck and a loss of colour and fullness in lips. These are gradual effects of UV exposure, which are overlooked until the damage is irreversible. All skin types are at risk but lighter skin types are at increased risk of having significant burning with sun exposure, accelerated skin damage and overall risk for different skin cancers.
So what can you do to stay gorgeous and healthy? Broad-spectrum sunscreen is available in a plethora of varieties and brands, so arming yourself with a method of sun protection that suits you and your skin type has never been easier. Most people choose to incorporate SPF into their moisturizer or makeup. An SPF moisturizer is a triple threat: it will moisturize skin, protect from sun damage, and prevent ageing. Apart from the traditional sun creams that are available, ingenious breakthroughs have been made in the development of sun protection. Mineral powder sunscreens now come with a high SPF content as well as offering coverage when needed. Innovative lotions now exist that adapt to your skin shade simultaneously brightening and protecting. Another favourite, if you don’t regularly wear foundation, then a tinted SPF moisturizer is ideal for every day use. Lastly, invest in a protective lip balm as the lips have thin skin and are more susceptible to ageing from the sun. BUT ALWAYS REMEMBER IT MUST BE A BROAD SPECTRUM SPF of 30+
Usage: Also critical to sun protection is applying the correct amount. Correct application is a minimum of 2-3 tablespoons of cream for every zone. There are 11 zones in the body: the head, the right arm, the left arm, the upper front torso, the lower front torso, the upper back, the lower back, the upper legs and the lower legs. That is a LOT of sunscreen. To determine how long you are protected, you need to know your skin type. The lightest individuals will burn in 10 minutes without sun protection so if you multiply that with the number in SPF you will get the period of time you are protected. If you are a skin type 3, which is medium color, it will take 15 minutes to burn and if you are darker, like skin types 5/6 it will take 20 minutes to burn.
So in summary:
-Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA & UVB protection from the hair and lash line. Remember ears and lips and scalp
-Wear sunglasses to protect the delicate eye area
-Use enough sunscreen
-Minimize sun damage (stay out of sun between 10 am to 4 pm)
– that your SPF is in date
-Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure to ensure protection
-Let your sunscreen sink in rather than aggressively rubbing it it
-Reapply throughout the day – generally every two hours if you’re out in the sun