Protecting your skin with sunscreen is essential all year round. Here are ten tips on using it properly for skincare and protection from UVA and UVB rays. Apply it honestly, enjoy the sun without fear of damage or cancer.
Don’t. It’s not enough to slather on sunscreen just once a day. Most of us do. It’s a force of habit – more like a bad habit. For sunscreen to work correctly, you need to follow a few simple rules. What are they?
1. Why use sunscreen?
Sunscreen protects us from harmful UV rays. The two types, UV-B and UV-A, are both detrimental to health. UV-B radiation causes skin burns and skin cancer.
UV-A radiation is not as intense, but it damages the skin too – it causes wrinkles, age spots and is the culprit of skin ageing. Most creams protect from UV-B radiation. However, it’s worth investing in a broad-spectrum sunscreen that also protects you from UV-A rays.
Sunscreens prevent sunburn, which can cause skin cancer. The sun protection factor (SPF) reflects the ability of sunscreens to reflect UV rays.
None can reflect 100% of UV radiation. SPF 30 blocks approximately 97% of UV rays. For higher SPFs, the difference in UV blocking is negligible.
So forget about factor 50+, up to 300,- more expensive and yet provides a maximum of 1-2% more protection than the standard SPF factor 30.
2. Choose the correct SPF
Choose it according to your skin type – the so-called phototype. Pale skin covered with freckles, which will burn with prolonged sun exposure, requires a higher SPF than dark skin.
The sun protection factor – SPF (sun protection factor) – indicates how much longer you can be in the sun before your skin burns. It is taken in relation to the time it takes to get sunburnt without using a cream – so if you use SPF 50 and get sunburnt in 15 minutes without cream, you can be in the sun 50 times longer, some 12 hours.
However, be warned, this doesn’t mean you’ll slather on 50 and be cool all day. On the contrary, our body sweats rubs against our clothes and overall, over time, our sun protection fades, so it pays to renew it regularly.
It’s easy to calculate the right SPF for your skin. Just divide the time you plan to spend in the sun (converted to minutes) by the number of minutes you usually burn. The resulting number is the correct SPF for you.
3. Check the expiry date
Don’t forget to do this when you want to use sunscreen from last summer. Sunscreen will generally keep its protective ingredients for three years from the date of manufacture.
If you have a sunscreen that has changed colour or a visible separation of ingredients, throw it away and buy a new one.
As a rule of thumb, four sunscreens for each family member should be enough for the period from spring to the end of summer but buy them gradually as you might run out, and that would be a shame. Think about nature too.
4. Shake before using!
No, we’re not talking about your favourite cocktail; we’re talking about your sunscreen. The SPF tends to settle underneath the cream even if you have a more liquid sunscreen – lotion or spray.
5. Apply 30 minutes before going out in the sun
Sunscreens have two types of SPF – chemical and mineral. The chemical factor is absorbed into the skin, where it blocks UV rays. Therefore, it needs a little time to work correctly.
On the other hand, Mineral filters remain on the surface of the skin – in this case, no pre-application is necessary. You can tell mineral sunscreens have a thicker texture, leave a white trace on the skin and are a bit more expensive.
6. Apply a good layer of sunscreen
For sunscreen to work correctly, you need to apply a good amount of it. How much is it? About six teaspoons per application. One packet of sunscreen should last about ten applications! If spreading sunscreen is a horror for you, get a spray or lotion; they apply better.
7. Apply all over your body!
Yes, even your bald spot, ears, back of your neck, whole back, or toes. Buy a special cream for your face, and apply a UV-filtering lip balm in the sun.
It doesn’t seem like it, but the effect of the cream diminishes not only with sweat but also by rubbing against clothes or other influences.
8. Apply the cream more often
Every 2 hours is ideal. No sunscreen provides all-day UV protection. And why apply so often? In the summer, we all sweat – sweat wipes off the sunscreen. Similarly, clothes can wipe away the sunscreen.
9. Do you want to take a bath? Buy a waterproof sunscreen
No waterproof cream is 100% waterproof. It can only protect you better while swimming. When you go to the seaside, your sunscreen should have a moisturising ingredient because saltwater dries out your skin.
Reach for a waterproof product even if you are planning an active holiday. Don’t forget to apply the cream after swimming or after the sports activity is over.
10. Apply sunscreen even under your clothes
Light clothing in white or light colours does not offer the best protection from the sun’s rays – so protect the skin underneath your clothes with sunscreen. Dark-coloured clothing is a little better.
Unique clothing with built-in sun protection will give you the ideal protection. If you don’t want to invest in one, buy clothes made of woollen fabrics – wool reflects the sun’s rays very well.
Even if you are wearing sunscreen, try to avoid direct sunlight. This will eliminate sunburn on your skin. The sun is at its most intense between 11 am and 3 pm, so if you have the option, don’t go out at this time.
Keep children covered with a high SPF sunscreen.
Children’s skin is the most sensitive. It needs the highest level of protection – a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50+.
You will also find age restrictions on children’s creams, which you should respect. Do not apply sunscreen to babies under six months – their skin is prone to absorbing chemicals.
Finally, we’ll help you navigate the basic terminology you may encounter on sunscreen packaging.
How do I know the terms of sunscreens?
When choosing sunscreen, we’ll navigate through the basic terms that should 100% be found on sunscreen packaging to help us find the right one for us. Therefore, we will introduce the most well-known ones.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor)
The sun protection factor indicates how long the cream protects the skin from UVB rays. A properly applied cream with an SPF of 30 will protect the skin 30 times longer than if we didn’t use cream. In technical terms, the SPF tells you what part of the UVB radiation the cream lets into the skin after application and what role it can filter out.
A product with an SPF of 20 lets in one-twentieth, or 5%, of the UVB rays (and filters out 95% of them), while a cream with an SPF of 30 lets in one-thirtieth, or about 3% (and filters out 97% of them). It may look simple, but choosing the right sunscreen is a trick… So pay attention to the SPF value when selecting.
In simple terms, along with UVB, the UVA just mentioned is another component of the sun’s ultraviolet spectrum linked to cancer and premature skin ageing.
If the UVA logo is shown on a cream’s packaging, it means that the product meets the US minimum UVA protection recommendations. This should be at least one-third of the SPF.
The words “waterproof” or “water-resistant” already tell us that sunscreen will protect us for a more extended period, even when we are in the water. However, we will dispel the myth that the cream will protect us further after bathing.
This is not really the case; the cream needs to be reapplied after you have finished in the water. However, compared to conventional creams, a smaller amount is sufficient. There are no products that do not need to be reapplied after a stay in the water.
The most frequent question concerns the value of 12M, which is often not understood. The packaging should show an open cap symbol with a number, usually 12M, indicating how long you can use the product after opening it.
Most sunscreens are perishable, which is why they have a one-year shelf life. Try not to expose the creams to heat or light, as their ingredients can degrade and lose their properties.