The Power of Sunscreen

With the weather forecast finally showing some signs of the air warming up and even a lengthy dry, sunny, hot week, many people are pleased just to be able to get outside, knowing that summer has arrived. With that prospect in place we all need to take care in the sun. Applying sunscreen before going out and taking it out with you. 

By now, we are all educated enough to know that sunscreen has the power to help prevent potentially cancerous skin damage. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 15 sunscreens filter out 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 shields up to 97 percent, and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. 

But scientists have also proven that daily sunscreen use can significantly slow the skins’ aging. Researchers* compared two groups, one group told to use sunscreen SPF 15 daily and another group told to use it as they wish. Results showed that participants who wore sunscreen daily showed 24% less skin aging after four years than those who were less consistent about applying it.

The same article suggests that daily sunscreen use may have the power to reverse existing damage, 58 percent of the subjects showed signs of moderate photo-aging, but that number dropped to 49 percent by the end of the study.

With higher temperatures this week, people will be exposing their skin.  Enjoying the warmth is fine but just needs a little UV preparation. 


Apply all year round

UV rays penetrate 90% of light cloud cover, so even though people think more about slapping on the sun cream in late spring or summer, actually you could put it on all year. It doesn’t matter if the air is warm or cool, it is about the strength of the sun’s rays. 


What about my moisturiser with added SPF? 

Many moisturisers now contain SPF15, but it is diluted within the thin layer that you put on first thing in the morning, and probably don’t reapply. Put sunscreen on first, wait and then moisturise.  It’s always tricky getting cream around your eyes well, an amount the size of a grain of rice will do for both eyes. 

What type of sunscreen?  

SPF means Sun Protection Factor. At least SPF 15 is needed for UVB protection and a high star rating of at least 4 stars (UVA) on a 5-star scale. Factor 30 or above is recommended and factor 50 for children’s sensitive skin. 

Out of date

Sun creams do have a shelf life, usually from 6 months to 2 years. It is a good idea to write on the bottle or tub when you open it. 

When to apply

No sunscreen will work if it hasn’t been applied properly, how often have you just missed a bit and all your good intentions go down the drain as you suffer a sore back of the neck or shoulder. Most need to be put on before you go out in the sun, ideally 20 minutes onto clean, dry skin. 


How much is too much?

This is only a guide for an adult, but two teaspoonfuls of sunscreen is enough if you're just covering your head, arms and neck. 1 teaspoon per leg, applying liberally. If you’re sunbathing or swimming use around 2 and a half tablespoonfuls for your entire body. This is equivalent to at least a golf ball sized amount of cream. Then reapply every 2 hours. You can still tan with sunscreen, but it will be more gradual and safer.

Fake tan? 

Fake tan is not sun protection. If you do get a spray tan before you go on holiday, it can ease the “I must get a tan quick” thoughts when you arrive which is a good thing, but you still need to apply sunscreen.

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors

Most of the UV rays occur between 11am and 3pm, so stay out of the midday sun and head for the shade. Apply your sunscreen well, each day, and reapply. Cover up heads and necks and wear decent sunglasses, then its safe to say, go enjoy the sunshine and warmth.

* Annals of Internal Medicine

Jodie Barras smith