The sun comes out and we reach for the factor 50 suncream, slap it on and feel we’ve done our bit to protect our skin. How many people actually follow the instructions and re-apply? Hmm, probably not as many as the manufacturers would like.
First, a little bit about the science of sunscreens. The SPF followed by the number is only an indicator of how long you can stay in the sun until you start to burn from the UVB rays. Therefore, the theory goes that the more easily you burn, the higher the factor. However, for all those people concerned with anti-ageing, take note. The SPF figure does not take into account how long you can stay in the sun before UVA rays start to cause damage. Think UVB anti-burning and UVA anti-ageing. The scary thing is there are sunscreens out there that just sell themselves on the anti-burning aspect and offer no protection from UVA. Because they do not block UVA radiation, you don’t know how much damage you’re getting because UVA doesn’t initiate burning like UVB rays do. The more damaging of the two types of rays, UVA can cause an increase in the rate of melanoma, a form of skin cancer and is a major contributor to premature skin ageing.
The problem with sunscreens is that most people don’t apply enough. When tested in labs, the amount of cream applied to testers’ skins is at least double or treble that applied on a daily basis by most members of the public. Part of the reason we do this is probably cosmetic: we don’t want to go out looking like a whitewashed cricketer. Secondly, it’s only a small tube, surely we can make it last a bit longer?
Answer to the second explanation is absolutely no. Not worth trying to make it last.
Answer to the first explanation is if you don’t want to look like you could take a light reflection reading off your face, then layer.
Layering is not just for clothes, it’s also for sunscreen. According to research, the best form of layering is 15 minutes before you expose yourself to the sun plus 15 minutes after sun exposure begins, but this certainly wouldn’t suit most. Imagine going shopping and whipping out the suncream! So try this way instead. Before you plan to leave the house, allow a 1st coat of sunscream. Leave 20-30 minutes, apply 2nd coat. That way, you won’t feel self-conscious about re-applying in public. Putting on 2 coats is more effective than one thin one and aesthetically more comfortable than a thick layer. You need to re-apply if you swim, sweat profusely or rub your skin.
If you can apply your 2nd layer by way of cosmetics with in-built SPF, then all well and good. There are some fantastic mineral powders out there that contain the organic and inorganic chemicals that absorb or reflect UV light and which sit on top of your skin. Go for a good mineral make-up to ensure protection, some branded make-up ranges absorb into the skin and do not offer adequate UV protection. Brands such as Jane Iredale, Bare Escentuals and Colorescience are at the top end of the mineral market, and they’re there for a reason. They deliver.
By the way, if you think that layering SPF15 x 3 times gives you SPF40+ something, sorry it doesn’t work like that!