So, we all know how important SPF is, so I’ll try and keep the science lesson short. I’m assuming everyone knows it stands for sun protection factor, and I’m hoping everyone knows you should use it every day, sunny or not. No it doesn’t really matter if it’s barbecue weather or not – you’re still affected by the sun’s rays even when it’s cloudy so you still need to be careful. I’m not going to go into things like sunglasses, hats, staying out of the sun between 11 and 3 etc: A) because we all know that already and B) because this post is going to be long enough as it is. I’m going to focus purely on the cosmetic side of things (hey, stick to what you know right?).
As a quick overview, here are the types of UVA you need to be aware of (there’s also UVC, but fortunately the ozone layer absorbs UVC, because those rays are nasty mofos):
- UVA rays – these are the ones which are around regardless of what the weather’s like. These can penetrate clouds no problem, so we’re exposed to them pretty much the same amount every day. These rays get right into the deeper layers of your skin, and are the ones responsible for aging skin (tip to remember it – UVA – Aging), tanning, and the initiation of skin cancer development. Tanning booths primarily use UVA rays – I’m going to resist the temptation to lecture people on sunbeds here but just know that the rays in them are over 10 times more powerful than regular rays, and you’re massively, MASSIVELY increasing your chances of cancer if you use them.
- UVB rays – these struggle to get through clouds and glass, so you’re generally a lot more protected from them on a day to day basis. If it’s sunny and clear, you’re a lot more exposed to them then when it’s dull and cloudy – they ARE still around though so be careful! UVB is responsible for burning (UVB – Burning) and is also the main player in skin cancer – UVA helps contribute but UVB’s the one you really, really need to be careful about. It only penetrates the top layers of the skin, unlike UVA.
Okay. So as I’m sure you’re aware, you really need to make sure you’re protected from both of these badboys. Neither of them are very nice, and when it’s so easy to keep yourself safe there’s clearly no excuse. This is where SPF comes into play. Broad spectrum SPF is what you’re looking for – this will protect you from both UVA and UVB, but unfortunately so many cosmetic products are like ‘OH HEY, look at my fabulous SPF 20, buy me and be really protected!’ but they are all lies, and in reality you’re only protected from one or the other. Try and go for something which is marketed as broad spectrum, if you can. And for goodness sake, don’t go lower than SPF15, it’s just not worth it. You might as well be wearing nothing when you slather yourself in SPF4. On a very basic level, it works by blocking UV rays for a specific period of time: if it takes you 10 minutes to burn with nothing on, SPF6 would then have you protected for 60 minutes, SPF30 would have you protected for 5 hours (300 minutes). However so many different things affect that – sweating, swimming, showering, any sort of abrasion – that you can’t really go by that rule, you’re better off just reapplying regularly.
Types of sunscreen
There are two different types of sunscreen – physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens work by deflecting the rays from your skin, chemical ones absorb the rays. There’s no way I’ll be able to go into loads of detail on it, but have a read of this (just bear in mind it’s American) table for the key differences. Physical sunscreens are usually used in make up, as they’re less likely to clog up the skin BUT they do need to be reapplied more regularly which is a pain in the backside. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the key physical sunscreens, so look for them in your ingredients lists.
SPF in cosmetics
Okay. A lot of the time, SPF in your make up is a bit of a con. People see that a foundation is SPF 20 and think ‘score, now I don’t have to bother with suncream!’ Don’t get me wrong, every little helps, but generally nobody (except maybe this girl) applies enough foundation to get the full SPF they claim to offer. You’re much better off using a dedicated SPF product and then applying your foundation. Moisturisers are better because most people apply more of it, but bear in mind you really need quite a lot!
What I prefer to do, is use a moisturiser with SPF in the winter, then as soon as we get a hint of sunshine I’ll use a facial suncream instead. Here are my top picks:
1) Boots Soltan Once for Face – SPF30, £5.49. This is my favourite for using in the summer! Soltan’s the best SPF around, 5 star protection and it’s just brilliant. Plus this one’s lightweight enough to use under make up, and it’s part of the Once collection so it’s designed to last all day. It might not be foolproof, but I’ve never been burnt whilst wearing it! It also has gradual tan in it, so you still get some colour but safely.
2) Garnier Moisture Match Protect and Glow – SPF20, £5.99. This is what I’ve been using in the winter, it’s a really good moisturiser and the SPF is an added bonus. It contains a damn good SPF – butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane – and unlike a lot of lightweight moisturisers for normal skin it’s actually genuinely moisturising. And it brightens your skin and makes you look nice and awake – just what you need when you’re getting up early. Don’t get it in your eyes though, this stuff stings!
3) Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defence – SPF50, £31. Slightly more expensive here, but hey, if you can’t invest in good health and skincare, what can you invest in? It’s oil free, suitable for sensitive skin and it’s Kiehl’s, so is obviously just a luxurious, great product all around. And unlike most SPF50s, it’s lightweight and won’t leave you looking like a cricket player.
4) Dr Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm Cream – SPF25, £18. If you’re looking for something in the coverage department, give this a go. I haven’t tried it because I’m pale as they come, but I’ve only heard good things about it and I wish I could! It has decent coverage, along with all the usual BB benefits. It’s oil free, helps prevent water loss from the skin, and reduces redness. I want to try it soooo badly.
5) Bobbi Brown Extra Repair Foundation – SPF25, £25. And your more medium coverage product is this. Regular foundation, but with lovely ingredients like shea butter and evening primrose oil, this is supposedly a great foundation for dry skin, with really good broad spectrum sunscreen. It’s dewy too, and has a great range of shades.
And that’s about it, I think! I apologise for the MAMMOTH post, it took me a good few hours (with a Ben and Jerry’s break, v. important) but hopefully you feel a little more informed as a result of it. I’ll leave you wish these last few points, and let me know if you got through it all because I will send you a medal (maybe).
- UVA and UVB are both bad, you need protection from both! Repeat after me: Broad. Spectrum.
- Tanning isn’t worth it. Yeah it looks nice but with some of the amazing fake tans which are around now, you don’t need to put yourself at risk to get it.
- Make sure you apply enough SPF. Apply what you think you need, then do it again, because chances are you haven’t used enough.
- If one sunscreen breaks you out, try another. They’re all different!
- Please please use sunglasses. Unfortunately you can’t really apply most SPF near your eyes, so sunglasses are vital! Think of the cataracts and the crows feet as a result of sun damage.
- Clothes help, but they don’t offer much SPF – generally a white t shirt will offer an SPF of about 5. A tip for when you’re on holiday, is to apply an all-day SPF all over when you get out the shower in the morning, then just reapply the visible areas throughout the day.
- Don’t forget your ears. Those babies hurt when they’re burnt. Same goes for lips.