Which SPF to pick, how long to leave it before reapplying, how much to use: sun care is a minefield of numbers and information that can leave you stumped.
It’s enough to make you throw in the beach towel. However, health experts the world over agree that protecting our skin from the sun is vital.
To help demystify the world of sun care, we’re looking into SPF numbers, and whether there’s a way to double up on your protection.
If you’re in the pharmacist, you may see SPF15, SPF30, and other ratings. Working out how they get to that number is key to learning how to get the most of your sunscreen.
How is SPF worked out?
Laura Harker RN, Lead Screening Nurse at The MOLE Clinic tells Metro.co.uk: ‘SPF stands for sun protection factor, meaning how well the sunscreen protects you from sunburn.
‘Suncare products are given their SPF rating based on how much longer the skin takes to burn with sunscreen versus without sunscreen. This process is undertaken in a lab and a formula is then used to get the SPF number.
‘This formula is based on the number of seconds it takes for skin to minimally burn with sunscreen divided by the amount of seconds it takes to burn without.’
So, if your skin would normally burn in one minute, SPF30 would protect you for half an hour.
That means, regardless of how ‘strong’ you think your sunscreen is, you’ll still need to reapply regularly?
Can you double up your protection?
You might be wondering whether you can simply apply two layers of a certain SPF to ‘double’ the length of time you’re protected.
Unfortunately, however, that’s not the case.
Laura explains: ‘This is because layering products does not increase the amount of active ingredients.’
So, even if you wear a sunscreen that’s SPF30 and a makeup product with SPF15, you’re still only protected at an SPF30 level.
She adds, though: ‘Research shows that two applications optimises sunscreen use by increasing the amount of sunscreen applied and reducing missed areas.’
Basically, although you’ll only ever be as protected as the highest SPF level you have on, applying more means you’re technically better protected.
Find out how to choose the right sunscreen for you here.
Laura’s sun care tips
- Try to avoid the sun when the UV rays are at their strongest between 11am and 3pm by spending time in the shade.
- Protect your skin by covering up with clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and UV protection sunglasses.
- Use an SPF of at least factor 20 with a 4/5 star UVA rating. Be generous in your application, reapply every two hours or after swimming, sweating or towelling and use in conjunction with clothing and shade.
- Sun safety is important at any age, but extra care needs to be taken to protect children and babies as their skin is much more sensitive. Once again clothing, shade and sunscreen are important and babies under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight.
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