Sunscreen: Everything You Need To Know

Knowing how to protect yourself properly in the sun, learning about the dangers behind it without freaking yourself out and swotting up on what to look for in your SPF can be totally confusing. In fact, sometimes it’s so baffling and overly technical that it’s easy just to turn your back on all the big words and stick to what you think you know, even if it’s not what you think is right.

Don’t panic, we get it—so here’s our simplified version of everything you need to know about beauty’s most important topic, thanks to some easy-to-understand expert tips and explanations.

Keep scrolling to find out how you can enjoy every single minute of sunshine this summer—completely guilt-free (*smug high five*).



Mark Hunter for Wildfox

What to look for:

  • Check the packaging for the words “broad spectrum,” as this gives you full protection from all of the sun’s rays. Try Clinique Mineral Sunscreen Fluid for Body SPF 30, £22.
  • On particularly sensitive areas like your eyelids, “avoid ingredients like perfumes and preservatives like parabens, which can cause a bad reaction,” warns Abi Cleeve, MD, Ultrasun UK. Try Ultrasun Eye Formula SPF 30, £18.
  • Antioxidants like vitamin E, plant extract and green tea are all beneficial, according to Isabelle Benoit, education director for Institut Esthederm. Try Institut Esthederm Suncare Oil Extreme Sun, £42.
  • “Also, look for physical sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide or soothing actives like licorice extract,” Benoit says.

Yes, but as with your regular sun care, keep applying it every two hours. “Water-resistant formulas are more reliable and last for longer,” explains Cleeve. “The official classification for a product to be water resistant is that it must still provide the quoted SPF after 40 minutes of swimming.”

Try Ladival Sun Protection Transparent Spray SPF 30, £14. Happy bathing! 

“At least 15 minutes before you go outside,” says Cleeve. Top it up throughout the day every two hours.

“Indoors—if you apply it in direct sunlight, the product can evaporate before it has had a chance to bond with the skin, which then makes it less effective,” she says. It’s easy to miss bits if you’re in a hurry too, so take your time.

How much?
“Use a blob about the size of a two-pound coin for each limb and your entire front and back; otherwise, you won’t get the full protection that’s labelled on the bottle,” warns Clare O’Connor, sun care expert at Boots UK. “On your face, use about the size of a one-pound coin.” With fluid textures, “apply two layers, allowing a few minutes in between so that the first coat has time to settle into the skin,” says Isabelle. Be generous when using a spray —and we mean super generous—as they are usually transparent, making it easy to miss bits.

UVA vs. UVB vs. Infrared-A = WTF?

  • Remember the UVs like this :UV-Aging and UV-Burning. “UVA rays penetrate below the skin’s surface [causing wrinkles], and UVB rays cause sunburn,” explains Cleeve. 
  • Infrared-A, in a nutshell, speeds up the ageing process by breaking down precious collagen and elastin, but because it penetrates so deeply into the skin, it can’t be blocked. However, “[using sun care containing] a combination of antioxidant ingredients can help to ease and prevent this damage,” says Dr. Justine Hexstall, FRCP consultant dermatologist on behalf of Ladival. Try Green People Scent Free Facial Sun Cream SPF 30, £17.

Vitamin D–ON’T BE FOOLED. We all know how good vitamin D is for our health; “If you’re lacking in it, you feel tired, have aching bones and muscles and can feel depressed,” Dr. Hexstall explains. But don’t be sucked in by potentially dangerous claims that you can only get your dose from the sun. “You can get vitamin D through your diet too,” says Dr. Hexstall.

“Oily fish, eggs and cheese are a good source as well as some cereals and dairy products.” Put safety first, says Cleeve, “It’s better to have the right protection and then think about adding a supplement or reassessing your diet if you’re concerned about a lack of vitamin D,” she says. “The dangers of sun exposure far outweigh the benefits.”

We may use every curse word under the sun (if you’ll pardon the pun) when our beloved yellow ball in the sky disappears behind a cloud, but according to Cleeve, UV rays penetrate 90% of cloud cover—who knew?! Dr. Hexstall adds: “We usually holiday in countries that are near to the equator—the closer we get, the more intense the sun,” she explains. “When sunlight is this strong, you’re still exposed, even when it’s cloudy.” Keep topping up your sun lotion, peeps, come rain or shine.

Fabric doesn’t give you 100% protection from UVA or UVB rays. "Especially loose weave and cool fabrics like cheese cloth and very light-knitted cottons,” says Cleeve. “Wear tight, close weave fabrics instead.” 

Drivers should also beware. “Glass does not protect us against UVA,” warns Dr. Hexstall. “If you sit near a window at work or drive a lot, wear a broad-spectrum sunblock with good UV protection.” Abi adds; “We often see heightened skin damage in drivers on one side of their face.”

Feeling more clued-up about sun protection now? Share your thoughts below!

Opening Image: Mark Hunter for Wildfox