What is SPF? The Benefits

While there is no doubt the warmth of the sunshine and longer days are good for our souls, it is important we don’t forget the effects sun damage can have on our skin.

And as we say goodbye to the spring and hello to summer, it seems the perfect opportunity to learn how to protect our skin from those harmful rays.

Sun Damage

Sun damage is the number one cause of premature ageing and shows on our skin in the form of wrinkles or hyperpigmentation.

Dullness, discolouration and uneven skin tone can also be a result of skin that has been damaged by the sun’s harmful rays. By incorporating adequate sun protection into your daily routine you can combat the onset of early ageing.

It is important to apply a moisturiser with SPF all year round and not just when the sun is shining.

Sally Penford, Education Manager at The International Dermal Institute, explains: “The first line of defence against sun damage is to use an SPF daily. Even on cloudy or overcast days, UV light can still get to skin and cause damage.”

You may be asking what does SPF stand for? Well it means Sun Protection Factor (SPF). The level of SPF in a sunscreen or moisturiser demonstrates its ability to delay sun-induced burning. The higher the level of SPF, the more protection it offers against UVB – the ultraviolet radiation rays which cause sunburn.

Even if exposure is limited to twenty minutes, cumulative exposure is enough to cause the early onset of skin ageing.

Sally explains: “UV exposure causes damage to skin that may not be noticeable at the time but accumulates and shows its ugly face when we hit our 30’s or 40’s.”

For this reason it is important we take care of and protect our skin, no matter what age we are.

Daily SPF Care

During the winter months using a daily moisturiser with SPF can be enough to protect your skin. Throughout the warmer months, however, you will need to apply sun protection more than once a day; this is especially important if you are out in the sunshine for long periods. A night cream can help to repair skin and will re-hydrate skin which has lost moisture and brightness.

It is also important not to forget eye and lip care. There are eye creams and lip balms or lip protection creams which contain SPF on the market.

Sun Protection

As with all beauty and skincare products, sun protection products can cater for each individual skin type. From oily/combination skins to dry skins, there is no excuse not to wear a form of sun protection.

Sally highlights how sun cream products have moved on over the years, allowing all skin types to find a product which works for them.

She says: “We must seek modern forms of personalised skin protection; products for the face that are designed to meet the specific needs of individual skin types while providing defence against the sun’s damaging rays.”

As with normal face creams try to find a product which suits your skin type. If you suffer with oily skin, try to use an oil free mattifying sunscreen. Alternatively for dry, dehydrated skin try a rich moisturising formula.

For those who suffer from skin conditions or problematic skin, Sally recommends mineral-based products.

“If you have sunscreen sensitivity then look for mineral based products, which contain Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.”

Avene Thermal Spring Water Suncare Products provide complete coverage for sensitive and intolerant skin types. The SPF50+ Very High Protection Mineral Cream (£13.50 for 50ml) uses a 100% mineral screen and gentle formula to protect skin.

It is also worth noting that a sunscreen should be hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic to ensure it doesn’t cause a rash or clog pores, which can lead to acne.

Once you have selected the right sun protection for your skin type, it is important you apply it often and liberally.

Sally advises: “When you use a sunscreen make sure you apply an adequate amount to ensure you are getting the desired SPF. That’s generally about one teaspoon for the face and about an eighth of a cup for complete body coverage.”

The National Cancer Society recommends re-application of sunscreen every two hours. Unless you are using a waterproof formulation, it is also important you reapply sunscreen after swimming, exercising or sweating. To help protect your skin from cancer, look for a broad spectrum suncream which has UVA as well as UVB protection since, whilst UVB exposure causes sunburn, UVA exposure can increase the rate of melanoma.


New research conducted at Newcastle and Manchester Universities shows that Lycopene, found in tomatoes and red fruits, could potentially protect skin from substantial sun damage. A small controlled study found that women who were given 55g of tomato paste, to eat each day for 12 weeks, had an increased protection against sunburn of 30%. Lycopene is now being added to the list of antioxidants which help to protect skin from lasting sun damage and experts believe, combined with UVA and UVB protection, it could offer greater benefits to your skin when in the sun.

It is not just Lypocene which can help protect skin from the damage of sunlight.

Sally explains: “Research has found that antioxidant vitamins are as important as sunscreens when defending skin from the ageing and burning effects of ultraviolet (UV) light and free radicals. For this very reason, we must seek out active ingredient complex of Vitamin C and Vitamin E for maximum free radical protection alongside our sun screening ingredients.”

The Body Shop’s Vitamin C Energising Face Spritz (£8) is a wonder product to keep in your handbag throughout the warmer months. Featuring Amazonian Camu Camu Berry, one of the highest sources of Vitamin C in nature, it provides the skin with lost nutrients and refreshes tired, dull-looking complexions.

By arming yourself with the right knowledge and investing in good sun protection products you can relax and enjoy the sunshine without worrying about what lasting effects it may have on your appearance or health.

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