Skin care can be confusing, especially when it comes to navigating the world of SPF. As National Sun Awareness Week draws to a close, we thought we would answer some of your burning (sorry!) questions about sunscreen, from how to apply it to which UV filters give better protection.
#1 What is the minimum SPF I should use?
Ideally, you should go no lower than SPF30. This will protect the skin against around 97% of the sun’s UV rays while SPF50 protects against 98% of UV rays, which is about as good as it gets. No sunscreen will protect against 100% of UV rays so don’t be fooled into thinking that a product with SPF90 is a million times better than one with SPF30. During the Winter, you could get away with using SPF15, as the sun’s rays aren’t as strong or as visible during this time of year.
#2 How much sunscreen should I apply?
The more you apply the better, but nobody wants to spend hours rubbing sun lotion into their skin. For the best coverage, aim to apply around a teaspoon of sunscreen to the face, onto each arm and the feet. For larger areas of the body, such as the legs and torso, apply more – around two teaspoons worth per area. If you are using a spray SPF, then spray each area for around 30-60 seconds until the skin has a glossy sheen, before rubbing it in with your hands.
#3 How often should I reapply?
Best practice is to reapply your sunscreen every two hours, especially during days when you are in the sun for a long time such as on holidays or during day trips. If you are working out, exercising or swimming, this can break down the filters in sunscreen quicker, so aim to reapply your sun protection every hour.
#4 Are there any sunscreens that are waterproof?
No sunscreen is truly waterproof, but there are many formulas out there that are water-resistant for a good chunk of time; usually around 90 minutes. However, once you get out of the pool or sea and towel dry the skin, you need to reapply protection immediately.
#5 After applying sunscreen, how long should I wait before going out in the sun?
If you are using a mineral-based sunscreen (one that contains ingredients like Titanium Dioxide) then you can go out into the sun straight away, as this type of UV filter provides instant protection against the sun. For chemical-based sunscreens or ones containing both filters, wait for at least 20 minutes before leaving the safety of the shade.
#6 Are mineral UV filters better than chemical UV filters?
Not technically. The most effective sunscreen will provide broad spectrum protection, meaning it defends the skin against both UVA and UVB rays, and this protection could be provided by mineral-only filters, chemical-only filters, or a mix of both. Mineral filters work by blocking UV rays from entering the skin, while chemical filters absorb rays once they have entered the skin and convert them into less damaging heat radiation which is then dispersed safely throughout the body.
#7 How long can I keep a bottle of sunscreen?
Most sunscreen bottles will have a use by date on their packaging somewhere to advise you of this, but the majority of formulas can last around two or three years. However, if you still have plenty of sunscreen left after the summer, you aren’t using enough.
Image from iStockphoto