Slip slop slap - it really is not as easy as that!
The more sunscreen facts you know, the better informed you'll be when choosing sun care products for you and your family.
Using sunscreen has become one of the easiest forms of sun protection we all rely on today in order to keep our skin safe from sun damage.
There is quite a lot of information about what is good and what isn't but the following aspects will hopefully highlight areas requiring your attention when choosing your sunscreen, as well as how best to use them for ultimate protection.
Sunscreens absorbs, reflects or scatters UV light rays.
The UV light rays are divided into three wavelength bands - ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC). Only UVA and UVB rays reach the earth.
Sunscreens provide either physical or chemical protection, or a combination of both, from these 2 UV light rays:
Easily the one sunscreen fact that most people judge a sunscreen's value by is the SPF, which stands for "sun protection factor".
This appears on all sunscreen packaging as a number, declaring the amount of protection the sunscreen has been tested and certified for. This rating ranges from as little as 4 to as much as 100.
It measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UVB rays that reach the skin. For example, "SPF 15" means that 1⁄15 of the burning radiation reaches the skin through the recommended thickness of sunscreen. It does not indicate the degree of protection from non-burning UVA radiation.
Most common SPF ratings in sunscreens range from SPF 15 to SPF 30. If you don't tend to burn easily when out in the sun, or are already reasonably well tanned, you can choose a sunscreen product with SPF 15. Those with fair skin or who have the tendency to burn easily, should rather opt for a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30.
From the table below, you can see that the SPF protection curve rises sharply and then trails off.
This is one of the sunscreen facts not commonly known...
an SPF of 30 does not double the protection of an SPF15, neither does an SPF 60 double an SPF 30
which are commonly asked questions.
If you apply SPF 15 over an SPF 30, you will only have a maximum protection of SPF 30.
Not, as some people believe, a combined SPF of 45.
What 'broad spectrum' actually means, or implies, varies in many people's minds.
What it actually should mean is that you get protection from all of the long-wave UVA and the medium-wave UVB rays.
Protection from the short-wave UVC rays is not included as they are prevented from reaching the earth's surface by the hemisphere.
Unfortunately, many sunscreens that say that they are broad-spectrum really aren't at all, or don't block the full UVA spectrum. Ie. The full wavelength spectrum from 290 - 400 nm. (see figure below)
To get good protection from UVA rays as well as UVB, look for sunscreens that list titanium dioxide, and/or zinc oxide as one of their ingredients.
Sunscreen details printed on any tube of sunscreen should include the relevant information about when it will expire.
This will relate directly to the ingredients contained within the cream, lotion, gel or spray. Whether a chemical or physical based sunscreen or a combination of both, there will be a limit as to how long they will be effective.
From an expiry point of view, it will be greatly improved the better you look after your sunscreen. Eg. taking it to the beach and leaving it out in the full sun for hours on end will most likely create some sort of impact to the consistency.
Whereas if you make a point of keeping it relatively cool and not exposed, you are likely to retain the quality longer.
As a general rule with all sunscreens, apply 20 minutes before going out into the sun and reapply every 2 hours.
But the following sunscreen facts apply:
So reapplication often is vital for optimal protection.
If you plan to get wet or sweat excessively, you can choose a sunscreen that is more water resistant than most, but bear in mind the fact they are not likely to be completely waterproof.
Cover all areas exposed:
What many people fail to do is properly is to protect their entire body when applying sunscreen. While you should definitely apply sunscreen to the areas of your body that will be exposed to the sun, it is also important to add a layer of sunscreen to your:
These are common areas that are often forgotten and very often the areas that get sun burnt, as well as the common areas for skin cancers.
Sunburns in these areas can also be particularly uncomfortable.