Learn skincare with me. Lesson 3: SPF

To be honest, I don’t know why I haven’t made this the first post in the series because is there really anything more important?!

By now we are all aware of what the sun can do and what damage it can cause, so it’s ultra important to use SPF and protect our skin as best we can.

I know that pretty much everyone is aware of the qualities of SPF at this point so I won’t patronise in this post (I’ll try, anyway), but I will cover off the key details.

So…SPF!

Also known as?

  • Sun protection factor
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun cream
  • Sun block

What is it?

Sun protection factor – SPF – is literally what its name implies: protection from the sun.

The sun has two different types of damaging rays: UVA and UVB rays. On a very (very!) basic level, the easiest way to differentiate between the two is: the ‘A’ in UVA indicates aging, and the ‘B’ in UVB indicates burning. There’s a lot more to it than just that, but that’s a simple, basic understanding. UVA rays cause premature aging (as do UVB). Those dreaded wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots only appear sooner when we take no steps to prevent the damage. So in (sun)light of the above, we need to understand the ways we can protect our skin from aging before its time.

SPF comes in two main forms: mineral and chemical.

The general preference for people with sensitive skin is mineral sunscreen, as it’s less likely to cause irritation. If you’re looking to use an SPF under your makeup, however, mineral sunscreen may not be the best one for you as it sits on top of the skin instead of absorbing so much, acting as deflector against the rays. Look for an SPF with Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Dioxide if you’re leaning towards mineral.

Chemical sunscreens penetrate past the skin’s outer layers to absorb the UV rays before they can damage the skin. These are more suitable for use under makeup as they absorb more into the skin.

What are the benefits?

It should be pretty apparent what the benefits of using SPF are by now, but because it’s so important I’ll drill it in by covering them off more.

Delayed signs of aging. Of course it’s inevitable that we will all start to age over time and look older as we get older, but using SPF will surely slow down and delay the signs of aging. Let’s push those wrinkles and age spots as far down the line as we possibly can! Have you noticed freckles and pigmentation appearing that wasn’t there before? They will almost certainly be a result of sun exposure, so the sooner you start using SPF the better. And in addition to that, the higher the SPF the better! (I’ve usually opt for one with SPF50 PA+++).

Preventing sunburn. I don’t really need to even mention this as we’ve all had it somewhere on us at some point, but it is NOT fun. The less we have of that, the better. Not only because it’s really painful and uncomfortable at the time, but because once that burn fades into a beautiful tan the damage is there for good and you’ll eventually end up like a leather bag if you’re not careful.

Preventing skin cancer. Definitely the most important point of them all, we have to be so careful in the sun because of the risk of skin cancer. We all want to be around to spend that time with the ones we love, so please(!) protect yourself and encourage your loved ones to do the same.

Things to be aware of

There is an argument that chemical sunscreen is damaging to coral reefs, so if you’re (hopefully) eco-conscious, then that may also be an important factor to consider if you reside in tropical regions when it comes to deciding the right SPF product for you.

SPF must be reapplied every couple of hours, so don’t just pop it on in the morning and think you’re good for the rest of the day. There are specific sunscreens designed to require application once a day (I like Ultrasun), so where reapplying every couple of hours is a faff you could go down that route instead.

There are some sunscreen products out there that have such a low SPF it begs the question: why do they even exist? Using an SPF with a minimal SPF is about as good as trying to drink water out of a bottle with a closed cap – it’s there but it’s not doing anything for you. Sure, something is better than nothing, but when it’s so low it just becomes futile, so make sure you opt for a high SPF. The British Association of Dermatologists recommends a minimum SPF of 30. My mum has always used factor 50 at a minimum on us since we were kids because unfortunately her mother was a victim of malignant melanoma likely caused by sun exposure, so this is a topic I take very, very seriously.

Also, look for a broad spectrum SPF covering both UVA and UVB rays. Do your research to make sure the sunscreen you’re looking at covers all basis, as there are some rather basic ones out there. Don’t be tricked into thinking that just because you’re wearing sunscreen you’re protected; it needs to be enough.

A good sunscreen can be pricey, but it’s worth it. Don’t skimp on the most crucial part of your skincare routine.

Below are some of the sunscreens I’ve been really enjoying. Ultrasun is thicker and leaves a layer on your skin, whereas the other 3 (Missha, Biore and Purito) are all a lot more suitable for wearing with makeup. However, Ultrasun is definitely effective as I learned when I forgot to apply it to a patch on my face (!) which got a slight burn (grrr).

As always when it comes to skincare, always speak to a Dermatologist for proper advice, information and suitability for your skin. I am not an expert in any way – this is primarily just my own research, so please do your own research and speak to the relevant professionals if you have concerns about your skin.

I hope you take away from this the importance of SPF, and thanks for reading!

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