We may feel like we look healthier with a tan but the facts don’t lie. If we don’t want to join the 15,400 people diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer each year*, then it’s time to get sun safe.
Alongside sunglasses, a hat and staying out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day, the next obvious thing we can do is slap on the SPF. Yet despite us buying more sun protection than ever our skin cancer rates are continuing to rise, suggesting that maybe we’re not quite as clued up on our sun protection as we would like to think.
To clear up any confusion, I’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about sun protection.
What is SPF? The SPF or Sun Protection Factor in your suncream relates to the UVB rays that burn skin and the amount it multiplies your natural protection against them. Which basically means that if your skin normally goes red after ten minutes in the sun, a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 20 would multiply that number by 20 resulting in 200 minutes of time in the sun before your skin turned red (assuming it had been applied correctly in the first place).
However it’s the UVA rays that play a major role in skin cancer and skin aging and this is where the five star system comes in (more stars equals more UVA protection). So if you want to ensure you are getting full coverage look out for a sun protection that protects against UVA as well as UVB rays, ideally with the full five stars.
What is the difference between Chemical and Mineral sun protection? Chemical sun protection uses, yup you guessed it, Chemicals to filter out the suns rays. These chemicals include homosalate, octocrylene and octinoxate, and work by absorbing the sun’s UV energy and converting it into heat, which is then released from the skin.
Mineral sun protection uses natural minerals such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or iron oxide to form a physical barrier against the sun’s rays by bouncing light off the skin.
If you suffer from sensitive skin, eczema, acne, are looking for a facial sun protection or just simply prefer the more natural option, then I recommend opting for a mineral sun protection as its less likely to block the skin and cause irritation. Put off by the white chalky finish? Try looking for one based on zinc oxide.
Does sun protection harm marine life? Sadly yes. It is estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreens are washed in to the oceans each year causing harm to our already endangered marine environment. So much of a concern is sunscreen to our marine life, from coral bleaching to fish turning in to hermaphrodites, that this year Hawaii has passed a new law making it illegal for certain chemical sunscreens to be sold.
Thankfully these ingredients tend not to be used in Europe as much but it’s worth keeping an eye out for both oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Do ‘One-A-Day’ sun protections work? If you’re a fan of the one-application sunscreens, I’m afraid I have bad news. Recent studies have shown that they don’t actually give you all day protection. In fact so unreliable are these claims that Australia has even banded ‘once-a-day’ claims for all sunscreen.
How much sun protection do I need to apply? Considering most people apply a mere 25% of the suggested amount of sun protection, it’s no wonder we’ve seen our skin cancer rates soaring. To ensure you are getting enough protection, a general rule to go by, is to apply enough sun protection to fill a shot glass on the body and at least half a teaspoon for face and neck.
If using a spray the American Academy of Dermatology (ADD) recommend spraying for at least 6 seconds in each spot, that’s roughly 4 more than most people spray.
Rub in creams and sprays thoroughly so that no patches are missed, and expect to reapply every 90 minutes to two hours, more if you’ve been swimming, exercising or excessively sweating.
With kids that are in and out of the water make sure you go for a water resistant sun protection and don’t forget about ocean friendly options.
Finally while Cancer Research UK advises a minimum SPF15 and four star UVA rating, I recommend going for 30+ and remember price is no indicator of quality.
Still not sure which sun protection to go for? Check out my top picks below.
FOR THE FACE
CHANTECAILLE Ultra Sun protection SPF 45 PA ++ Anti-Glycation Primer £80
A primer and sunscreen in one, Chantecaille’s Ultra-protection SPF45 will protect your skin from both UVB and UVA rays. With lemon balm, cherry blossom and white tea extracts to soothe the skin and fight free radicals and inflammation, plus carnosine helps to prevent the breakdown of the skin’s collagen.
LA ROCHE POSAY Anthelios XL Anti Shine Dry Touch Gel-Cream SPF 50 + £16.50
If summer makes your face shine brighter than the sun then this ones for you. A gel-cream with a dry touch finish, Anthelio XL absorbs quickly into the skin leaving no shine and no white marks. Suitable for use on sensitive and sun-intolerant skin, its very high UVA-UVB protection ensures that the skin is shielded from the sun’s rays while La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water soothes and calms the skin.
NUXE Facial Sunscreen SPF 30 £17.50
Nuxe’s facial sunscreen with Sun and Water Flowers has been specially formulated for the delicate skin on your face. Easily absorbed with no white film in site, it protects cells from ageing and helps you achieve a perfect tan.
FOR THE BODY
NYDG Chem-Free Active Defence SPF 30 £88
Formulated with nourishing Argan extract and regenerative Squalane, this non-sticky, unscented chemical-free sun cream, continues to protect even through swimming or perspiration. Ideal for outdoors adventurers.
CLINIQUE Virtu-Oil Body Mist SPF 30 £25
INSTITUT ESTHEDERM Adaptasun Protective Silky Body Mist – Moderate Sun £39
A complete sun protection system, Adaptasun trains the skin to fortify itself at a cellular level, fighting free radical damage and stimulating the production and distribution of melanin, leading to a faster, more intense and longer lasting tan.
GREEN PEOPLE Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF 30 Scent Free £22
Water-resistant, organic, marine friendly and offering broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection, it’s no surprise that Green People has become a go to brand for organic familys. With antioxidants and skin vitamins A, C & E (Green tea, Olive, Avocado and Rosemary extract) to help support the skin’s immune system and protect against cell damage.
SUSANNE KAUFMANN Body Broad Spectrum Protection Sunscreen SPF 25 £57
Formulated with newest and most effective UVA and UVB filters, Susanne K Sunscreen Body Broad Spectrum Pro safeguards your skin from premature ageing, regenerating and repair damaged skin cells thanks to the pure power of plant compounds pentavitin and ectoine.
THE ORGANIC PHARMACY Cellular Protection Sun Cream SPF 30 £39.95
Combining titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, alongside key ingredients Aloe, Shea butter , Vitamin E and Rose Hip, Organic Pharmacy’s natural mineral sunscreen provides high protection against UVA and UVB ray’s, while leaving skin feeling nourished.
WITH A HINT OF COLOUR
THIS WORKS Perfect Legs Skin Protector SPF 30 £40
Dare to bare with This Works advanced tinted serum that helps to refine, smooth and protect skin.
HEMPZ Yuzu & Starfruit Touch of Summer Fair SPF 30
A 100% naural daily moisturisering gradual self tanning cream made of hemp seeds that helps to protect again harmful UVA/ub rays, daily elements and sun exposure.
FREEZYDERM Sun Screen Colour Velvet Face SPF 50+ £22.99
Freezyderm’s velvety tinted, transparent facial sunscreen melts into the skin, to provide a beautiful lightweight coverage alongside high UVB and UVA protection. Water-resistant. Paraben and fragrance free. Non-comedogenic.
FOR THE KIDS
BIODERMA Photoderm Kids Mousse SPF 50 £10.50
Suitable for even the most sensitive skin, this fragrance and paraben free sun protection comes in a fun mousse formula making the application process more enjoyable for them and easy for you. With exclusive combination of UVA/UVB dermatological filters, Cellular Bioprotection® and C-peptide to reinforce UV protection for children’s delicate skin.
ORGANIC CHILDREN Sun Lotion SPF 30 £18.50
Another appearance from Organic People, this time with their high factor, scent free, 78% organic SPF 30 sun lotion formulated specifically for children with sensitive skin.
Oh and for every bottle bought Organic People will donate 30p to the Marine Conservation Society.
CHILDS FARM 50+ SPF Roll-On Sun Lotion £10
This roll-on sun lotion is water resistant and protects young, sensitive skin from UVA and UVB rays whilst keeping them moisturized and hydrated. Ideal for when you are on the go or leave in the school bag