We all get the appeal of bronzed limbs, but equally, we’d be foolish to overlook the fact that rates of melanoma in the UK are soaring. We spoke with Claire Crilly, skin cancer screening nurse at The Mole Clinic, and Rabbia Aslam, Clinical Director at HC MedSpa, for the lowdown on suncare, to ensure you’re fully prepared and protected this summer.
Firstly – how often should you be applying sun cream?
“You should be applying a generous amount every two hours to maintain protection, particularly after sweating, swimming and direct contact with the sun. At the start of the day, apply thoroughly 15 to 20 minutes before you go outside so it’s fully absorbed into skin. And remember the neck, ears, feet, hands and scalp, as these bits often get forgotten.” – Rabbia Aslam
And how much should you be using?
“Roughly 2mg of sunscreen per square centimetre of exposed skin – for an average person, that’s 35ml for your entire body, or around one teaspoon per limb. Most bottles are only 200ml, which should last just a few days if applied and reapplied properly. A single case of bad sunburn can double your chances of getting skin cancer and 85% of melanoma cases are caused by sunburn, so it’s well worth doing it properly.” – Claire Crilly
Is the SPF in your make-up enough for your face?
“No – you should be using a minimum of SPF20 on your face, applied every two to three hours. Relying on getting this solely from make-up is unrealistic, particularly if make-up is not reapplied throughout the day, which is often the case.” – Claire Crilly
“Make-up products that contain SPF will give you some additional protection, but use a product specifically designed to protect the skin and then use your foundation with SPF on top.” – Rabbia Aslam
What does water resistant actually mean?
“Water resistant sun creams have a rating between 40 and 80, which indicates how long it remains effective whilst swimming or sweating – this means that after 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, sun cream should be reapplied.” – Claire Crilly
Do once-a-day sun creams actually work?
“Over the course of a day, sun cream can easily be washed off or wiped away. This doesn’t mean that once-a-day sun creams don’t work, but they should be reapplied every two to three hours and more often after being in the water and when doing physical activity.” – Claire Crilly
What should you look out for on a bottle of sun cream?
SPF: SPF15 or lower won’t offer enough protection – use 30 as a minimum.
Water & Sweat Resistant: A water resistant sunscreen will adhere to the skin if you’re in and out of the pool, but bear in mind, all sunscreens need to be reapplied frequently.
Active Ingredients: Look for anything with the words: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. These ingredients are designed to absorb or reflect rays. Some sunscreens do not include any of these substances, instead they’re packed with elements to ensure the sunscreen smells nice and feels luxurious, but it’s not protecting the skin.
Broad Spectrum: This guarantees the sun cream is shielding you from UVA rays (which cause ageing and can penetrate clouds and windows) and UVB rays (which burn the skin and can cause cancer).
Expiry Dates: They matter. It’s great to be organised and purchase your sunscreen the year before, but it does have an expiry date and won’t work efficiently after it expires.
Creams Over Sprays: Sprays are designed to be quick and easy, allowing you to spray and go without getting your hands dirty, but they don’t always offer the best protection as it’s difficult to tell how much you’ve used. A cream is usually thoroughly rubbed into the body and you can squeeze out the desired amount.
Is there a big difference between SPF30 and 50?
“An SPF 50 will block 98% of sunburn rays, whereas an SPF 25 will block 96%, so it’s not as straightforward as simply doubling the protection.” – Rabbia Aslam
Any tips for those with sensitive skin?
“Avoid perfumed products and those containing parabens at all costs. For prickly heat sufferers, it might not just be the temperature exacerbating your rash – if your SPF contains mineral oils it may well be worsening your condition. Try Dermaceutic’s Sun Ceutic Sun Protection SPF 50, £29.99. It’s suitable for all skin types and as well as protecting you from UV damage it’s very hydrating.” – Rabbia Aslam
What about those with acne?
“Look out for sun creams that are non-comedogenic, this means the product is designed to not clog your pores and cause further irritation or blemishes.” – Claire Crilly
Is it worth splurging on more expensive sun creams?
“An SPF that costs a few pounds will be just as effective as a product with the same SPF that’s five times the price. If you’re splurging on sunscreen you’re not paying for a higher quality SPF but the other ingredients such as texture, fragrance or appearance.” – Rabbia Asslam
“Don’t be tempted by tanning supplements – evidence suggests they don’t work. Plus, they certainly won’t help prevent sunburn or avoid long-term sun damage.” – Claire Crilly
“It’s worth noting you should be wearing a lightweight SPF when you’re flying. When you’re on a plane, you’re around 30,000 miles closer to the sun, so think of the damage that can do, especially if you’re sat by a window.” – Rabbia Aslam
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