Short answer? Yes. Yes you do. Let's get into it.
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I read an interview in Dolly Magazine in which Jessica Alba, fresh on the Honey film promotional trail, stated that her best beauty tip was to wear sunscreen and drink water. I took her advice literally, assuming those two habits would give me both Ms Alba’s looks and dance ability.
While the former didn’t quite come to fruition (the latter will reveal itself in due time), I am eternally grateful that I adopted those habits when I did. In my adult life I have been dubbed the “SPF Bully” amongst my friends, and am undoubtedly a real punish to embark on any sort of sunny holiday with.
So is sunscreen really all that important, or am I just being dramatic?
In short, yes. Sunscreen is essential if you want to keep both your skin and your body healthy.
UV rays are non visible rays from the sun, and they are present year round. UV consists of UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC largely won’t reach the earth’s surface, however both UVA and UVB certainly do. UVA, in particular, is present all through winter, and is responsible for penetrating deep into the skin and affecting our body’s collagen production, leading to premature photoageing of the skin.
UVB doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin, however it does cause irreversible DNA damage and sunburn. UVB is also more responsible for causing the DNA damage that leads to skin cancer.
Given that UV is present year ‘round and can penetrate glass, it’s absolutely worth applying sunscreen every day. Although some people check the UV index daily and will only wear sunscreen if that index is projected to reach a number above 3, I personally feel this leaves too much room for error.
I recommend getting into the habit of applying sunscreen every morning, just as you clean your teeth, to give yourself peace of mind and avoid making a mistake.
Sunscreen labelling is pretty confusing, but there are a few things you can do to ensure you get the most sun protection possible.
When we see SPF 50+, that 50 actually refers to the level of UVB coverage specifically. The sun’s rays also contain UVA, and the UVA coverage is proportional to the UVB coverage measured in, and labelled on, your sunscreen.
This is why it’s important to choose a sunscreen that is “broad spectrum” (meaning both UVA and UVB) and ideally 50+ (as this will indicate a proportionately higher level of UVA coverage).
While some may argue that there isn’t a big difference in the coverage offered by SPF30 and SPF50 products, this only refers to UVB. Your sunscreen needs to be broad spectrum 50+ for adequate UVA coverage.
Sunscreen doesn’t last forever, unfortunately, so while your morning SPF application will give you a decent level of protection, it will need to be reapplied throughout the day.
Sunscreen will last a little over 8 hours in lab conditions, but that’s not real life. As a rule of thumb, sunscreen should be applied every two hours. This sometimes just isn’t possible, so it’s worth looking into other ways to protect your skin from the sun.
Sunscreen is simply one line of defence against UV rays, and no sunscreen provides 100% protection against UV. Beyond applying, and reapplying, your sunscreen, it’s worth working another form of sun protection into your day.
This can be a hat, protective clothing, sunglasses or something as simple as staying in the shade.
To find the right sunscreen for your skin, begin by deciding if you’d prefer a “chemical” (not the technical term, as everything is technically a chemical) or “physical” sunscreen.
The former contains chemicals that absorb UV light and convert it into heat, while the latter generally contains zinc particles to bounce the UV back- when it comes down to it, though, they both work in really similar ways. What matters most is the SPF level, and whether or not you can happily commit to wearing that product daily.
There are countless sunscreen options available today- and I’ve tried a lot of them. Next week, I will be breaking down the different SPF formulas further, and sharing all of my recommendations.