SPF (sun protection factor) creams have been around for over 50 years now to help stop us frazzling to a crisp in the sun.
But don’t let them lure you into a false sense of security!
SPF alone doesn’t provide the full answer to protecting us, in fact the SPF is really only one of 3 things we should look for in a sun screen.
So what does SPF mean? What the SPF importantly tells us is how long after application we need to reapply to avoid burning from the UVB rays. If you normally start to burn after 10 minutes sun exposure, then reapply an SPF 30 after 300 minutes (10 x 30) or 5 hours.
The SPF itself can be really misleading. It may seem logical to assume that an SPF 50 is twice as effective as SPF 25, but this isn’t so.
SPF25 blocks around 96% of the burning UVB rays whilst SPF 50 blocks around 98%, in effect that’s just 2% more protection.
An SPF30 blocks around 97%, so only around 1% less than an SPF 50.
What else should you look for? A good sunscreen should offer ‘broad spectrum’ protection across the deeper penetrating UVA rays too. It’s the UVA rays that are responsible for skin cancer. A sun cream will show UVA in a circle if it offers broad spectrum protection.
UVA rays also accelerate oxidisation and skin ageing. For this reason, it’s important to not only use broad spectrum sun cream, but make sure you’re getting a good top-up source of antioxidants as well.
Natural antioxidants include vitamins A, D and E, found with abundance in many organic plant oils.
So you shouldn’t need to resort to high SPF sun screen in order to get good sun protection. Make sure its broad spectrum and if it the sun screen itself isn’t antioxidant, use an antioxidant-rich moisturiser as well. Remember to reapply your sun screen too – and use not too sparingly as that can reduce protection time factor.
Whether it’s scorching or not, it makes sun-sense to stay out of the sun between 12-3pm, wear a wide-brimmed hat and remember that a t-shirt equals SPF 30!