Although it may feel like summer has been and gone already this year, temperatures are definitely rising and summer is around the corner. Most people will remember to slap on some sun screen when they are out in the hot sunshine over the lunchtime hours, but what about all those other times…

…Days like today that are a bit grey, a bit overcast, or times of days you think of as not being ‘dangerous’. Is it really worth worrying about the sun at those times too?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the answer is a resounding yes! And if your skin’s health is not reason enough, maybe your skin’s appearance will convince you. The sun’s UVA rays are the primary cause of the skin’s visible signs of ageing. Here is a bit more detail:

What do the sun’s rays do to my skin?

There are two different types of rays that affect our skin – UVA and UVB. UVB is the main cause behind sun burn. UVA on the other hand penetrates the skin more deeply and is linked to wrinkling, leathering, sagging and all kinds of delightful ageing effects known as photoaging. UVA rays are increasingly being understood as a cause of skin cancer in their own right and also increase the carcinogenic effects of UVB rays.

How does SPF work?

Sun screens use a mix of organic and inorganic ingredients that reflect, scatter or absorb the radiation so that it does not affect your skin. It is always marked with an SPF factor, which stands for ‘Sun Protection Factor’.

This measures a product’s ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin and works essentially as a multiplier. So if, unprotected, you would burn within 20 minutes, using an SPF 15 should extend your burn-free period to 5 hours (15 x 20 minutes). However, experts recommend using this rule of thumb with caution and warn that no sun screen is really effective after 2 hours – It sweats off, rubs off and wears off so it’s definitely worth reapplying.

In addition, the SPF is an indication of how much of the UVB rays will be blocked. Higher SPFs block out more UVB rays – so an SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays; an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays; and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays, but beyond that no SPF can offer full 100% protection.

Note that clouds are not an effective barrier to the sun’s radiation! Opinions differ on exactly how much radiation still comes through a cloud cover, but it ranges from 60% to 80%!

So how can I protect myself?

Here are some basic tips to help you look after yourself:

  • Opt for Sun screen that explicitly protects from both UVA and UVB radiation
  • Apply every day as part of your skin care routine, no matter what the weather – or choose a moisturiser and/or make-up that already includes SPF. However, remember that it will lose effectiveness over the course of the day!
  • If you have a skin condition that makes you more susceptible to burn, such as vitiligo, ideally cover up your patches with clothing and shade and don’t rely on sun screen alone if possible.
  • If you have scars, make sure you keep them out of the sun too as the skin is a lot more sensitive and burns easily.
    Choose SPF 15 – 30 for optimum protection

I love this little film by Nivea that shows you exactly how sun screen works on your skin….and what your skin *really* looks like