For many of us, sun protection isn’t a part of our skincare routine. This may be because we associate it with holidays. Or it may be because we’ve made the mistake of believing sun cream is only needed for those of lighter skintones. However, we require sun protection factor (SPF) no matter the weather and all skin tones require it. Sun damage is a huge risk factor for skin cancer so it’s important to try and prevent it.
Types of Sun Rays
There are two types of rays that sunscreen helps to protect the skin from; ultra-violet A (UVA) and Ultra-violet B (UVB).
Ultra-violet C (UVC) rays are also transmitted but does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere so protection from it is not required. UVA is the main tanning ray and whether it’s natural or from the salon, it causes damage over time. It also contributes to skin aging and wrinkling. UVB cannot pass beyond the superficial skin layers. It is responsible for delayed tanning and burning and significantly promotes the development of skin cancer. It too can also contribute to skin aging. As there are two types of rays, it’s important that your sunscreen should protect you from both.
Which SPF Should you Choose
SPF measures how well protected you’ll be from UVB rays:
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays.
The amount of protection from UVA rays is measured using a star rating ranging from 0-5. It indicates the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB. A product may have a low SPF but may still have a high level of stars, not because it is providing lots of UVA protection, but because the ratio between the UVA and UVB protection is about the same. According to British Association of Dermatologists, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars is generally considered as a good standard of sun protection in addition to shade and clothing.
Why you Should Always Use SPF
UV levels are highest under cloudless skies which is why people associate SPF with bright, sunny weather conditions. A cloudy day reduces the amount of sun exposure, however, light or thin clouds have little effect and may even enhance UV levels because the rays can be reflected which is why SPF is needed all year round. Bright surfaces such as water and snow can reflect the rays which increases exposure. You could have the best skincare routine in the world but without using SPF and protecting your face, you risk reversing all the good effort you’ve put in. Some skincare products especially those with acids make your skin more prone to sun damage which is why SPF is important.
If using SPF isn’t part of your skincare routine, I would highly recommend you start as soon as possible. Thankfully many moisturisers and primers and even some foundations now contain SPF, making it easier to be incorporate into a routine. Don’t forget to also protect your lips from sun damage by using a lip balm with SPF.