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We have all been told about the importance of using sunscreen; it protects our skin from the harmful rays that could cause the unwanted, such as dark spots, dull skin and the worst of them all, skin cancer.

Back to basics

If you look at sunscreen products you notice 3 important things: UVB, UVA and SPF. What do they mean? Here’s a quick rundown on what those three abbreviations mean;

  • UVA

Ultra Violet A rays impact your skin long term. If unprotected, it can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling.

  • UVB

Ultra Violet B rays are responsible for the reddish burns and tanning. It tends to damage the outermost layer of skin, where the most common and least dangerous forms of skin cancer occur.

  • SPF

SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”, this measures how long a sunscreen protects you from the UVB rays.

Misconceptions

Now that we covered the basics, let’s ensure that you use your sunscreen correctly in order to reap the benefits of it.

Having been a user of sunscreen for the longest time, some questions run through my mind: Have I been using it correctly? How much SPF is enough?

#1 the higher the SPF, the better, right?

Contrary to popular belief, sunscreens with a SPF value between 30 and 50 block 97% of UV rays, while those offering higher than SPF 50 block 98% of UV rays. That’s just a 1% difference in the amount of UVB rays blocked!

#2 forgetting UVA protection

When you look at your sunscreen, do you notice a Pa+++? This essentially measures the amount of protection from UVA rays.

Protection against UVA exposure is often neglected, as it’s not as obvious compared to UVB rays. However it can be more damaging than we know. According to Dr Adam Geyer, Kiehl’s Consulting Dermatologist: “by reaching the dermis, long UVA rays are attacking collagen and elastin that are critical to providing the skin with youthful, structural support”.

Our advice: lookout for the PA, the higher the value the more protection you’ll get. In some instances, Products may not use Pa systems so lookout for sunscreens that use the term “broad spectrum”.

#3 Not applying enough

More often than not, we don’t apply enough sunscreen. A quick check indicates a whole shot glass is required for your body in order to get the actual protection the product claims. As for our face, a quarter to a third of a teaspoon, would be a good recommendation.

#4 We don’t have to apply sunscreen if we’re indoors

UV rays from the sun are not the only source of harm. Another unsuspecting source lies in the devices we use every day. Mobile phones, computer screens, lighting in our offices. I don’t know about you, but it feels like we should not take it for granted, and protect your skin indoors too.

#5 Not waiting 30 mins before sun exposure

Most sunscreen contain two filters: physical and chemical.

Physical filters work almost immediately upon application whilst chemical filters require 30 minutes buffer before sun exposure as the ingredients require time to fully stick to your skin for the protection it needs. Chemical filters happen to be the solution we use the most for their convenience, lighter coverage (who wants to paint their face white?) and price tag.

Hopefully this has cleared your doubts for those who have been diligently using sunscreen for those who have not, it’s never too late to start!