THE BLOG

10 Sun Protection Questions - Answered

14/07/2014 14:41 BST | Updated 13/09/2014 10:59 BST

Most people know that it's sensible to apply sun screen to the skin in order to prevent burning. If the thought of ageing, sagging, sun damaged skin that is rife with age spots is not enough to convince people to apply sun protection, then the very real threat of skin cancer certainly should be.

The statistics in relation to the prevalence of skin cancer are concerning. In the UK, skin cancer is much more common than it used to be, with malignant melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) being the 5th most common cancer in 2011. Over 13,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year. This figure is 5 times higher than it was in the 1970s.

In the US, current estimates indicate that 1 in 5 Americans will have some form of skin cancer during their lives (The American Academy of Dermatology). On average, one American dies every hour from melanoma.

It seems logical, therefore, for people to protect their skins by using sun protection. Sadly, many underestimate the importance of this. It is astounding that a poll by Macmillan Cancer Support of 1,500 women aged 18 plus, found that even on a sunny day, 23% of women don't wear protection. And of those who do, a staggering 83% fail to apply it correctly, and nearly a third (31%) wear factor 10 or under. Macmillan recommends that an adult should wear at least an SPF of 15.

10 Sun Protection Questions Answered

Come rain or shine - is sunscreen really the most important anti-ageing skincare essential you can invest in? We answer all your questions in our comprehensive guide to sunscreen.

1: Do you have to use sunscreen when it's cloudy?

Yes. UV rays can penetrate through thin clouds, and the level of UV radiation is not dependent on temperature, meaning that skin damage can occur even on cloudy, cool days. In fact, patchy clouds can intensify UV levels because radiation is reflected off the cloud's edge which then focuses on the ground. It's therefore very important to be vigilant and to apply sunscreen even if it's not a sunny day.

2: What SPF should you use on your face?

Even if you decide to go for a lower SPF on your body you should always go for the highest possible protection on your face. 'The SPF in your foundation isn't enough to protect you in the sun, so always use SPF50 sunscreen on your face,' says Marea Brennan Thorns, who is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Aesthetic Medicine.

3: What is the difference between UVB and UVA rays?

UVB rays cause burning, whilst UVA rays are the ones responsible for skin ageing and are associated with DNA damage. 'UVA rays can alter the skin cell DNA, causing malignant melanoma over time,' explains Marea.

4: How important is wearing sunscreen in the battle against skin ageing?

The most important skin-care product available to prevent wrinkles is sunscreen. Both UVA and UVB rays cause wrinkles by breaking down collagen, creating free radicals and inhibiting the natural repair system of the skin. 'If you only spend on one skincare product, let it be a good SPF,' says Marea. Sun exposure rapidly accelerates skin ageing causing sagging, stretching and age spots.

5: Do sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays equally?

The SPF on a bottle of sunscreen tells you the amount of protection from UVB rays that the product offers, and in the UK, a star rating tells you proportionally how much UVA protection is in a sunscreen. Five stars means an SPF15 will offer the same level of UVB and UVA protection; whereas three stars (the EU standard) tells you that your SPF15 will give you lower UVA protection than UVB. Also look for sunscreens that are labeled 'broad spectrum' as only sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays are legally allowed to use this label.

6: How often should you apply sunscreen?

Always apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure, so it can penetrate the skin, and then reapply every two hours, especially if you're in and out of the water. 'Remember to reapply sunscreen as soon as you sweat or swim and every couple of hours,' advises Marea.

7: Which formulation offers more protection - spray, gel or cream?

All formulas will give you the same amount of protection. So if it says SPF15 on the bottle that's what the protection will be. It's really down to individual preference, so look what the product does rather than what it is, and ensure what you choose has a high SPF and UVA level of protection.

8: If you go in the sun should you avoid using products containing Retinol (Vitamin A) ?

You shouldn't use products containing Retinol if you're going to be exposed to the sun because it will make your skin more susceptible to UV rays and actually cause skin to age faster. 'Products with retinol in will make skin light sensitive and will strip the skin of old skin cells, so you lose a bit of sun protection from the lifted dead skin cell barrier,' warns Marea.

9: What are the best ingredients to look for in a sunscreen?

Sunscreen ingredients can be divided into physical compounds that block radiation, and non-physical compounds that absorb radiation. Look for scientifically advanced physical sunscreens like Titanium Dioxide and micronized Zinc Oxide, they provide broad-spectrum sun protection.

10. What is the future of sun protection?

Cutting edge sunscreens not only protect against UVA and UVB rays, they also offer anti-ageing properties and reverse and repair DNA damage. iS Clinical's new Extreme Protect SPF 30 7.9 pH +/-0.5 £60 for 100g, provides broad-spectrum protection and helps to repair solar damage by reducing redness and inflammation associated with sunburn. In clinical studies the application of iS Clinical Extreme Protect SPF30 was proven to offer nearly complete protection against thymine dimmer formation. Thymine dimmers cause the specific DNA damage that is consistent with a high cancer risk.

Sunscreen facts

*You need 3 tbsp of sun block to cover your entire body properly.

*Most sunscreens last 18months and it's a myth that sunscreens drop in SPF over time.

Sun Protection Products

iS Clinical Extreme Protect SPF 30 - 100g - £60.00

Karin Herzog Oxygen Sun Face & Body Cream - 150ml - £37.50

Heliocare Advanced UV Protection Range

Neostrata Skin Matrix support SPF 20 - 50ml - £54.00