What is SPF?

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Sun Protection Factor?

The Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, measures the level of protection given from UVB rays.

The actual number shown on a product, relates to the amount of time taken to redden skin by using the product as directed. For example; by using a sunscreen with SPF30, you would be able to remain in the sun 30 times longer than without any protection. If, like me, you can be in the summer sun for just 5 minutes without your skin beginning to burn, by using a sunscreen with SPF 30 it would give you two and a half hours to reach the same point.

The higher the SPF the lower the percentage of UVB rays actually hitting your skin.

Ultraviolet (UV) Rays?

Ultraviolet light is invisible, due to its short wavelengths. The rays can affect your skin every day of the year. Yes, that includes dull, winter days. The sun does not need to be shining and the rays can even reach you through glass. The amount of UV light does vary depending on factors such as, time of day, time of year, cloud cover and ozone levels.

There are two types of rays and it is essential that you are protected from both UVA and UVB.

UVA rays penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and result in tanning, skin ageing, dark spots and the formation of wrinkles. The short wavelength of UVA rays can also contribute to sunburn. They may also play a part in the development of some skin cancers.

UVB is the one that tends to cause sunburn and damage to the DNA in the skin cells which may lead to skin cancer.

The Met Office publishes the UV index forecast, so it is possible to see the level of risk each day and in different locations. In the UK the index does not exceed 8 and this number is rare. In high summer we may hit a UV index of 7. In the Mediterranean, indices of 9 and 10 are common and deemed “very high”. Numbers 11 and above are classified as “extreme”. In Australia the UV values can reach 17.

Not Always Simple

The higher the SPF in a product, the longer you can stay in the sun. However, it is essential that you protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, via the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen. The recommendation by the British Association of Dermatologists is to use a product with an SPF of 30 or above.

It is important to take note of the environment. Walking around a UK town with a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen may be fine all day. This won’t be the case if you’re at high altitude or near the equator where UV levels are much higher. Take note of the conditions and take the appropriate action when required: Seek shade, cover up and wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.

UV rays can be bounced off surfaces such as water, snow, sand, in addition to less obvious ones like grass and pavements. So it is important to take this into account when swimming and skiing, or just sitting or walking in the sunshine. The rays will also reach you in the shade.

Read the Instructions

It is important to follow the instructions on your sunscreen. In general, you will need to apply a generous amount, 30 minutes before going into the sun. The recommendation is to use two tablespoons, to cover the entire body, for an average sized adult in swimwear. Make this a part of your morning routine. After showering, apply the sunscreen, get the rest of your preparation done, have breakfast, then head out. 

Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen, particularly if you are exercising, perspiring and/or out in the sun all day.

Check the expiry date, as all products will have a shelf life. Most will give you 2-3 years unopened. They will start to deteriorate once opened and also if stored incorrectly.

When adding other products to the skin, such as moisturiser or foundation, put the sunscreen on first.

How do I Choose a Sunscreen

Take note of the points above when choosing your products and ensure protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Only use low SPF products outside of the brighter seasons. From March to October choose a higher factor, as dictated by the conditions and climate.

Suncreen from Medicalia® Skincare

Sunscreen SPF 30 UVA/UVB Protection – Broad Spectrum

Featuring a unique texture and feel, this sunscreen is richly hydrating, deeply moisturising, and leaves no oily residue. Once applied, the skin receives immediate comfort and coolness. Very rich in humectant-nourishing ingredients, it effectively combines Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide and other key elements to protect the skin from harmful burning and ageing rays.