It's holiday time! You've packed your swimsuit and got your sunnies but are wondering if that sun cream from last summer is still useable (the answer is maybe). We all know that SPF is a sunny day essential but with an infinite amount of factors, ratings and ingredients on the label, making sure skin is properly protected can be totally bewildering. In fact according to recent study, around 50% of us admitted that we didn't know what to look for in a sun cream and found many of the labels confusing.
But taking care of your skin in the sunshine is vital - and not just because those nasty sunburns can ruin a holiday! Applying sun cream properly helps protect against burning, skin ageing and even cancer. So make sure you get the best protection for your skin this summer (and beyond) by knowing your UVAs from your UVBs, which factor to go for and what else you can do to stay safe in the sun. Here are five must-know facts about SPF...
1. The difference between UVA rays and UVB rays
UVB rays penetrate the outer layer of skin and can cause sunburn, premature ageing and even skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, causing skin ageing and DNA damage (which leads to skin cancer). Generally, UVA rays are present year-round (even on cloudy days), whereas UVB rays are more prevalent in the summer months. The most important thing to remember about UVA and UVB rays is that both are harmful, but SPF ratings are only a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB. Which brings us to the next point...
2. Opt for broad-spectrum sun cream
To protect against both UVA and UVB rays, look out for 'broad-spectrum' labels on bottles or a 'UVA logo'. All sunscreens in the European Union should have the UVA logo, but it may be tricky to find outside of the EU so make sure you pack your own if you're travelling far. And don't forget to make sure your lotion is in date. Most sunscreen is designed to to remain at original strength for up to three years, but if yours is older than that or past its expiration date - bin it.
3. SPF numbers, explained
What do those SPF numbers mean anyway? Basically, they represent the number of minutes your skin will be able to withstand the sun's rays before burning. So let's say you have an SPF 30 sun cream – this means that technically, you could be out in the sun 30 times longer before getting burned than you would be able to if you went out without any sunscreen at all. But here's where it gets tricky – an SPF of 15 is not half as effective as SPF 30. Dermatologists estimate that while an SPF 15 filters out about 93% of UVB rays, an SPF 30 filters out about 97%. Meanwhile, SPF 50 filters out about 98%, which means that a higher factor doesn't always mean a higher protection (we told you it was tricky). Play it safe and opt for at least SPF 30.
4. How much is enough?
It's not enough to get the right factor and type of sun cream (broad spectrum SPF 30, remember?), if you don't apply it correctly then your skin won't be protected. Typically, adults should apply about a shot glass worth (approximately 35ml) of sunscreen all over their body and then re-apply every two hours. You should also make sure to apply 20 minutes before sitting out in the sun, as most sun creams require time to absorb into the skin. And don't forget to re-apply after taking a dip in the pool!
5. Sunscreen isn't the only protection
In addition to applying sunscreen, you can help avoid those pesky sun burns this summer by limiting your time in the sun and wearing protective clothing. The sun's rays are strongest in the middle of the day, so stay indoors or relax in the shade during this time to avoid burning. Protective clothing like long sleeves, hats and sunglasses will also help.
Protect your skin this summer and stock up on sun cream from Asda.