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Summer Skin Care - a Guide to Spf

Updated on February 1, 2020

“The sun is shining…the weather is sweet”

Done with the abrasive cold winds and dreary mornings of winter, we now find ourselves lazing in the sun on lunch breaks, or hitting beaches and parks on the weekend. Being from the UK, we have a typically British attitude to sunny days - we see a fraction of sunshine, sunglasses come out and we race towards the light, who knows how long these brief heat waves will last?

I’ll admit it (and rub it in just slightly) that as I write these words I’m sat in the back garden on a swinging hammock, iced water to hand and the sun beaming down. This is a life I could get used to! Do I want my brief time in the sun to show, a glowing, revitalised complexion? Of course, but at the same time, I don’t want to put my skin at risk!

Understanding and using SPF products can make a big difference to your skin. It’s all about protection and prevention. Around 80% of ageing is actually cased by sun damage! Most people usually lay in the sun for hours to get the perfect sun tan, but did you know a sun tan is actually a sign your skin is burnt and damaged? Play it safe, go for tan-in-a-bottle over hours spent being burnt alive – literally!


UVA and UVB rays from the sun penetrate through the layers of your skin, damaging the cells. These cells are responsible for producing collagen which is what holds your skin firm, smooth and plump. It’s what gives you that ‘youthful’ appearance. Once the collagen cells are damaged, they will cease to produce enough of the protein, resulting in a prematurely aged face, loose skin, hollowed areas and wrinkles. This tends to be what gives that ‘leather’ look appearance to older damaged skin. Collagen cannot be re-built naturally by the body.

UVA rays are responsible for ageing our skin.

UVB rays are responsible for burning our skin.

SPF stands for sun protection factor, and the number is not the only important thing to look for when you go shopping for one of your own. Ideally, you want something that covers both UVA and UVB, as well as being water-proof and sweat-proof. These days, more and more brands across the high street have added SPF moisturisers to their collections, meaning it will be easier to find one more suited to your skin type. By their nature, they tend to be greasier than regular moisturisers, but there are some matte ones out there for those with oily skin. Finishing powder over the top of any moisturiser will give a more matte finish.

It’s not just about your moisturiser though! There has been a recent surge since the growth of mineral make up in SPF infused foundation, concealer and powders. There really is no excuse to not wear an SPF product of some kind daily. Just remember, an SPF moisturiser of 15, under an SPF 25 powder foundation does not give you an overall SPF 40, it will give you SPF 25.

The likes of moisturisers and make-ups designed with sun protection in mind are considered ‘sunscreen’, as in they help your skin absorb the UVA and UVB rays, but only taking in the goodness, e.g. Vitamin D, where as ‘sunblock’, is created to bounce the rays entirely off your skin. Both require reapplication through out the day, so if you’re going to be out all day in the sun, consider choosing a sunblock over a sunscreen, as it will give you more protection!

The one downside to these types of moisturisers and make-ups I have come across is their ability to cause my skin to breakout. And I’m not alone. There is a chemical in most of these products called PABA that many people are allergic to (much like Bismuth found in mineral products). There are some PABA-free moisturisers, and more are hitting the high street each season. You can also pick up some great oil-free moisturisers that will reduce pore-clogging and breakouts. These are also great for those with oily skin!

But what do the numbers mean?

Browsing the shelves, there are many different lotions and potions raging from SPF 15, to SPF 50+, so, the higher the number, the better the protection? Yes and no…and just because your friend can get away with an SPF 15 doesn’t mean you can too. How long can you sit in the sun without any sunscreen or sunblock before you start to burn? For me it’s around 15 minutes. I like to wear an SPF 15 usually, so here comes the math.

15 x 15 = 225

That means with an SPF 15, my skin is protected for 225 minutes, almost 4 hours. So someone who is very fair and could easily burn in 5 minutes would only get 75 minutes of protection with an SPF 15. If I increased my SPF to 25, I would get a whopping 6 hours of protection!

You can also buy specific SPF products for your lips – and you don’t have to look like the England cricket team! Vaseline have got a great SPF lip balm, as well as Garnier and Boots. Most range from SPF 15 – 25, but the thicker sunblock based ones will have a higher range. Just watch as these tend to have a habit of melting in intense heat – try keeping them overnight in the fridge!

So now you’re all clued up on the great benefits of SPF you can go forth, armed with this knowledge as you purchase the perfect SPF for you! Remember, different types of days could require a higher factor SPF, and some days require a sunblock over a sunscreen! Seek shade when the sun is at it’s highest point and keep hydrated! And most of all, have fun out there and make the most of these sunny days!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Sarah Campbell


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