Sunscreens aren’t just for summer, they’re a year-round essential, especially in hot, sunny climates. With so many sunscreens to choose from, it can be difficult to select the right one for you. Use our guide to understand what the labels mean and help make the best sunscreen choice for you:
- Choose a broad spectrum: Always go for a sunscreen with ‘broad’ or ‘full spectrum’ coverage. This means protection against both UVA and UVB rays, two forms of ultraviolet (UV) rays that can affect your skin after exposure. While UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin causing wrinkles and skin aging, UVB rays hit the skin’s surface leading to sunburn and, in more serious cases, skin cancer.
- Select your SPF: The sun protection factor (SPF) is related to the UVB rays that cause sunburn and provides an indication of how much additional protection your skin has when using the product. For example, if your skin starts to burn after 10 minutes in the sun without protection, with an SPF15 sunscreen it would take 15 times longer, or 150 minutes, for your skin to start burning. Higher SPFs also filter out slightly more UV rays: SPF15 filters out 93% of rays, SPF30 filters out 96%, and SPF50 98%. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher.
- Pick a sunscreen to suit your lifestyle: If you’re sporty or spend lots of time in the water, look for sweat or water-resistant sunscreens that are designed to withstand perspiration and water exposure, usually for a period of 40 or 80 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re planning a leisurely, limited time in the sun, there are ‘long-lasting’ or ‘once-a-day application’ sunscreens, which indicate a time ranging from minutes to hours for how long they protect. Remember, however, that all sunscreens can wear off and so you should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and after sweating or being in the water.
- Choosing between a lotion, cream, spray or stick: This is more to do with personal choice than effectiveness. Those with dry skin may prefer lotions or creams that are more hydrating, while the light feel and easy application of sprays can appeal to others. Sticks are a good option for faces as they’re less likely to run and cause eye irritation. Whichever form you choose, the most important thing is to ensure you apply enough sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin – it’s always better to apply too much rather than too little.
- Check the expiry date: Expiration dates on sunscreens are there for your protection. Over time, active ingredients or chemicals within sunscreens can change or break down, causing them to become ineffective. Changes to smell, texture and color are also indicators that your sunscreen is passed its use by date.
It’s important to remember that sunscreens should be a part of your overall approach to sun protection, not the only part of it. Covering up in long, loose clothing, a hat and sunglasses is recommended, as well as avoiding direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day.