For most of us, spending summer in the sun gets us through the year – but with all the thoughts of beach days and pina coladas, it can be easy to forget the havoc sun can wreak on our skin. Shockingly, 26% of us never wear a sunscreen (even while sizzling at the pool), making us vulnerable to skin damage, which can cause signs of ageing and threaten our health. With at least 100,000 new cases of skin cancer now diagnosed each year in the UK, it’s time we brushed up on staying safe in the sun.
The myth: I tan easily, so I don’t need to wear a high SPF
The truth: Although a tan may make you look healthy and radiant, it actually means your skin is trying to protect itself from UV rays. ‘The pigment that gives our skin colour is called melanin,’ says dermatologist nurse Dr Natalie Fisher. ‘And when our skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces more melanin, in an attempt to absorb UV radiation – and this is what makes us tan. Those with darker skin tones have more natural protection, but whatever your skin tone, you can still get burnt and experience the ageing effects of the sun.’ Eek.
The myth: When using sun cream, a little goes a long way
The truth: Packing too little sunscreen might work wonders for keeping within your baggage limit, but it may mean you’ll underapply it when you’re on the beach. ‘As a guideline, you should apply a minimum of six teaspoons to cover your whole body – half a teaspoon for each arm and one teaspoon for each leg,’ says Dr Fisher. ‘It’s important to apply liberally. Applying half the required amount can reduce the protection by as much as two-thirds.’ And that’s not the only application rule we need to stick to. ‘Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before any sun exposure, as 60% of protection can be lost if applied in direct sunlight,’ Dr Fisher adds. And how often should we reapply? ‘Every couple of hours – and more frequently if swimming, even if the product is water-resistant. And always choose a higher factor than you think you need because we tend to apply sunscreen sparingly, which can decrease its SPF value.’
The myth: Sunscreen protects skin from the sun, so I don’t need it when it’s not sunny
The truth: Most of us know sunscreen is crucial for preventing a lobster-red complexion, but over 80% of the signs of ageing are caused by our environment, such as exposure to UVA rays. ‘Wearing a sunscreen with a 5* UVA filter is the best anti-ageing investment you can make for your skin,’ says Dr Fisher. So does this mean
we should be slathering ourselves in SPF every day? ‘UV levels are not related to temperature. Cool, bright days can have damaging levels, so wear an SPF daily – even if you’re stuck inside – as UVA penetrates glass and reflects off light-reflecting surfaces such as light walls, water and even snow.’ Olay recently discovered that women who almost always wear sunscreen are 78% more likely to have younger-looking skin. Consider us sold.
The myth: Moisturiser with an SPF is enough to protect my face
The truth: When skin is in direct sunlight, the efficacy of a moisturiser with an SPF is questionable. ‘It will protect you against small amounts of UV exposure – for instance, when you walk to the car or hang out the washing,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall. ‘But for anything more than that, a sunscreen with UVA protection is recommended. SPF moisturisers are less likely to be rub-resistant and water- resistant, and are usually applied more thinly than sunscreen, so they may not offer you the level of protection you need.’
The myth: Sunscreen will cause me to have breakouts
The truth: If you have acne-prone skin, you’ll probably dodge layering product onto your face, fearing it may cause you to break out. But adding an SPF to your routine is worth it, and the good news is that it won’t clog your pores.‘Avoid oily comodogenic sun creams if you have acne-prone skin and use dry touch gels,’ says Dr Hextall. ‘But always make sure you use separate sunscreen for your body and your face, as facial formulas are not as heavy or greasy as those formulated for the body.’