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  • Writer's pictureChin Ling

Do I Need An SPF?

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

We're in May and we’ve reached that time of year when we start to think about sun protection. For those of us who need to top up our vitamin D, sun exposure is a healthy must.

Skin experts recommend 10 minutes, not at the beginning or end of the day but when the sun is high in the sky. This sounds contrary to previous recommendations when we were told to stay out of the midday sun, but for health purposes, this is the best time of day. If you don’t wish to expose your face, then go for arms or legs. Not only will this make you feel good, but your body will be able to do what the body does best in sunlight: manufacture vitamin D. If you’re not able to get sun exposure, then by all means get a high quality vitamin D supplement and take it daily, don’t just make it a complement to your medicine cabinet!

For the face, sun protection creams are now a part of your skin routine. There was a phase at one time when lots of skin care companies were adding an SPF to their day moisturizers but this is becoming less common. For a start, a moisturizer can contain up to 3% active ingredients. Since sunscreen itself contains active ingredients, if you add the two together, that doesn’t give you a whole lot of % to play around with for actively hydrating and improving the skin. Secondly, by using concentrated and quality active ingredients in moisturizers, the presence of sunscreen in the same formulation disrupts delivery of those ingredients. Therefore, the best solution is to apply moisturizer then layer separate sunscreen over that.

How much do I use?

This next bit of research was done on the body rather than the face but the same practice does apply to the face. The method of testing sunscreen is to slather a thick amount on the arm and half an hour later shine a solar simulator (not sunshine) onto that area. Real people don’t usually put as much sunscreen onto their skins.

A group of researchers from UCLA went to the beach to observe real people. They saw people putting on only 25-40% of the sunscreen they should have been applying and not allowing enough time for it to settle before sun exposure. So in reality, if they were putting on an SPF30 cream, they were only getting the sort of protection expected from an SPF4.5! So how much should you use? For the face, try to aim for 2 teaspoons. In most cases, it’s more than you would usually use and, for best results, let it sit for about half an hour before going out.

Extra cautious skin

If you have had any facial procedures such as micro-dermabrasion, skin peels or laser, you know you have to be cautious in strong sunlight.

Apply the cream to your face and neck, wait half an hour, then apply a second coat. If you don’t want to use this on your face because you'll wear a hat as your protection, remember your neck. It is easy to assume no UV light will reach your neck but you would be amazed at the number of reddened necks and decolletés I see. If you are likely to forget your neck, apply sunscreen to this area before you dress for the day and don’t skimp! Seriously, don’t skimp! Once the elastin fibres on your neck and décolleté are spoilt by UV rays, there is no cure!


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