If you don't wear a face sun cream all year round, now is probably the time to think about adding one into your daily routine. That youth serum you swear by means nada if you're not protecting yourself from the most potent skin ruiner - UV rays. If you're feeling a little clueless, don't worry, we've spoken to the experts to bring to you SPF 101.
What exactly is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It measures the level of protection a product will give you from UVB. The British Association of Dermatologists recommend always using a minimum of SPF 30, which blocks 97% of UVB. To put that into context, SPF 15 blocks 93% and SPF 50 blocks 98%.
So, are there different types of UV rays?
Yes, the sun emits two different types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB. The former penetrates deep into the skin, while UVB rays are shorter, burning the surface.
How much damage can UV rays really cause?
That deep tan you have today will make your skin resemble a beat-up Mulberry tomorrow (or in 10 years' time, at least). Sun damage shows itself in the form of dullness, uneven pigmentation and loss of firmness. "Ultraviolet rays from the sun are extremely harmful to the skin and cause more than 90 per cent of the visible signs of ageing including wrinkles, sagging, rough patches and skin discolouration," confirms Dr Shirin Lakhani. Both UVA and UVB play a role in the development of skin cancer.
What's the best way to apply your SPF?
"Your sunscreen should be applied after your moisturiser and before your foundation," says Shirin. "Even if you are wearing makeup you still need to re-apply every two hours." It also needs to be applied correctly to be effective, so make sure you're using a decent amount. "Sunscreen should be applied before you leave home in the morning all year round," adds Dr Qian Xu. "Even on cloudy winter days."
Choosing an SPF
So then how come when it comes to sun cream, we're usually left slathering on whichever lotion the 'organised' friend brought to the park?
Applying an SPF daily is essential for long-term beautiful skin, so you really should find a favourite that works well for you.
Here's some advice on what to look out for, just in time for your summer holiday...
Is oil-free the solution for oily skin? Amanda Von Dem Hagen, Lead Developer at Glo Skin Beauty says definitely, recommending to go for a lightweight moisturiser with SPF instead.
"Many sunscreens that offer a high SPF factor tend to be a lot thicker on the skin, leaving it feeling sticky and oily, and in turn promoting further skin issues such as blocked pores and blackheads."
Julie Morris, Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner, Effortless Skin, agrees, saying oil-free sunscreen is best if you don't want your skin to feel greasy or congested.
Left to right: Solar Shade SPF 50 Glo Skin Beauty, £35.95, Cleanance Sunscreen SPF50+, Avéne, £16, Urban Environment UV Protection Cream Plus SPF50, Shiseido, £31, and Eclipse SPF 50, Is Clinical, £32.
"Thick creams can feel uncomfortable on the face when worn all day, especially in the heat on holiday, so opt for lightweight creams, gels, fluids, lotions and mineral powders instead", she says.
Dr Daniel Glass from the Dermatology Clinic London says to also be sure you're using a suncream that's "formulated for the face and neck" and to "choose a sunscreen gel (instead of a cream-lotion) for the body".
BLEMISHED & SENSITIVE SKIN
When it comes to blemished, acne-prone or sensitive skin, keep an eye on the ingredient list.
"There are two types of agents used in sunscreen: physical and chemical. Some of the chemical agents used in sunscreens cause irritation", says Dr Daniel Glass.
"Benzophenones are probably the most common culprits, but there are other chemicals that may even cross-react with sunlight to cause a skin reaction."
Keep it simple and avoid extra unnecessary ingredients like fragrances and preservatives. Heavy oils and shea butters are a no-no.
Left to right: Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 Cera Vee, £14.99, Daily Defence Moisturiser SPF 50, Cetaphil, £12.99, Daily Shield Lotion Tinted SPF 50, Epionce, £45, Anthelios Ultra-Light Sun Cream Fluid SPF 50+, La Roche-Posay, £16.50 and SPF 30 Mineral Powder Sunscreen Brush On Block, £38.95.
"Alcohol can also dry out and irritate skin, so try and opt for non-comedogenic and alcohol-free creams," says Dr Yannis Alexandrides, Founder Of 111SKIN And Head Of Surgical Practice At 111 Harley St.
It's also important to be as gentle as possible when applying you suncream, as to not further irritate your skin.
"Apply it just like your moisturiser; gently smooth and massage it all over the skin, taking care not to rub or massage the skin too aggressively," says Julie.
"For highly sensitive skin, try a mineral powder sunscreen. These are easy to dust onto the skin, cause little to no irritation and feel weightless, so they won’t make your skin feel heavy and overwhelmed with product."
Dry skin sufferers, you're in luck, because SPF serums are now a thing and there are already loads of hydrating moisturisers with SPF built in.
Amanda is 100 percent on board, saying to "opt for a lightweight SPF which doubles as a moisturising face cream [or serum]. This way you are protecting your skin, whilst also reaping other skincare benefits", says Amanda.
Left to right: Skin Insurance SPF 30, Sarah Chapman, £49, City Sunscreen Serum SPF30+, Supergoop, £41, SPF 50 Protective Face Base, Bobbi Brown, £33 and Invisiblur Perfecting Shield SPF 30Murad, £60.
Sunscreen oils can be a popular choice for those with dry skin and Arnie Schwarzenegger-esque ambition at the beach, but Amanda thinks lotions and creams are best.
"You can opt for a dry oil SPF [but] a cream or lotion-based SPF is advisable, especially if you want the product to last all day," she says.
It's not just our skin that needs protecting from the sun, our hair also requires a shield of sorts to keep it shiny and hydrated. The sun is also a big culprit for colour-fade, so unless you want your lengths to lighten and become dull, you'll want to spritz one of these bad boys on before heading outdoors:
Left to right: Sun Shield UV Defence, Philip Kingsley, £22, Sun Protection Spray, Wella, £13.90, Solaris Sun Oil, System Professional, £17 and Sun Care Protective Hair Veil, Aveda, £22.50.