In case you couldn’t tell from the ominous clouds, ongoing rain, cold wind and need for pants and jackets, we’ve just hit summer!
Now, while this is great news for mood levels, showing off pedicures and The Association for Impressive Sandcastle Construction, all of that sun (use your imagination) can be hazardous for your skin. And if there’s one thing I love getting yelly about, it’s sun protection! Because despite all of the terrific and exciting benefits skin cancer offers, and the delights of premature ageing, sometimes a lady chooses to keep her skin protected, and youthful, and healthy instead. (Of course, sometimes she doesn’t, like the dingus pictured at left.)
Note: What I’ve detailed below is for everyday, incidental sun exposure. If you know you’re going to be outdoors for an extended length of time, at the beach or park, (EVEN IF IT’S CLOUDY – that’s often when the UV is worst), you need to use Proper, Full Strength Sunscreens, not ones concerned with cosmetic benefits. I like the Banana Boat or Neutrogena sprays for my body, and Clinique Sun Face Cream SPF 30+ on my – wait for it – face.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT PRODZ.
1. You must be protected from UVA and UVB rays.
While UVA are the AGEING (wrinkly) rays, UVB are the BURNING (skin cancer-ery) rays. Most sun protection will take care of UVB, but you need to ensure you’ve covered from UVA, too. Ordinarily I would just say look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ on your prodz, but like the word ‘organic’ it is increasingly being used incorrectly, so what you want to do is have a quick peek at your ingredients.
If you see ‘Avobenzone’ or ‘Zinc Oxide’, then you’re UVA safe. Avobenzone has a bad rep for being unstable (disintegrating after a couple of hours) but the clever folk at Neutrogena have added oxybenzone to it, which lessens the break down, meaning you are protected better, for longer. They call this (very highly regarded) technology ‘Helioplex’ which you will see on many Neutrogena products, and which is a terrific reason to buy them.
2. Wear higher SPF for longer protection, not stronger.
SPF doesn’t refer to the strength of your protection it refers to the time. So, if you’re using SPF 10, you will get 10 times the amount of time in the sun it would usually take for you to burn. If you use SPF 30, you will get 30 times. So, assuming it takes my skin 10 minutes to burn with no protection, using SPF 30 I have 300 minutes protection from that application. But guess what: As soon as I swim or sweat, I need to re-apply, or I am back to zero protection. And guess what else: I don’t get another 300 minutes, I just pick up where I left off when I jumped into the pool.
Also, you must use enough product! Otherwise it all becomes a waste! Roughly one teaspoon a limb is required for your SPF to be able to do its job at the strength indicated on the bottle. (So if you use too little product, your SPF 15 could come down to an SPF 4.)
THEN WEAR THEM RIGHT.
3. The right application for the right product
There are two kinds of sun protection: chemical (sunscreen) and physical (sunblock.) Physical blockers – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – tend to be more stable and are chemical free, making them ideal for people with sensitive skin or who are post-laser. However, they are thicker (it’s zinc, after all, just like the stuff cricketers wear on their lips and noses) and a lot of people prefer the cosmetic feel of chemical sunscreen, which are more common.