Yup, we’re back at it again. This time, we’ve put together (to the best of our ability) a comprehensive 4-part guide to sunscreen. It’s the 101 you need to know in order to get the most out of your sun care! In the first part of our guide, let’s talk quick sunscreen tips/facts, how to wear it properly and the shady truth about SPF numbers.
Quick SPF Facts
1. It plays a huge part in safeguarding against skin cancer. Skin cancer is not just down to genes, sun exposure is a critical, indisputable factor. And sunscreen is perhaps the best preventive action you can take against skin cancer. In fact, studies have found that wearing sunscreen everyday can cut the risk of skin cancer by a staggering 50%!
2. Reapplication is a must. Sunscreen begins to degrade from the point of application and become increasingly less effective. To stay protected, reapply every 2-hours or after swimming/sweating (even for water-proof sunscreen).
3. You need SPF during all daylight hours, even if the sun is not out. UV rays (UVA) are present as long as the sun is up, whether or not you can see or feel the heat!
4. It’s never too late to start if you haven’t already. In reality, the body slowly loses its ability to repair cells damaged by UV rays as it ages. Coupled with a weakened immune system, one often becomes more susceptible to skin cancer with age.
How To Wear & Remove Sunscreen
1. Wear it as the last step of your skincare routine, but before makeup. Make sure your layer your sunscreen, do not mix it into your foundation/moisturiser. This could affect its composition and effectiveness.
2. You should wait for chemical sunscreens to work. Apply chemical sunscreens approximately 15 – 30 minutes before sun exposure so it has ample time to sink in and form a protective layer. (You don’t have to wait for all-physical sunscreens. See this comprehensive guide to chemical vs. physical sunscreens and stay tuned to part II where we simplify the differences for you!)
3. You’re probably using less SPF than you should. More is more for sunscreen. You generally need at least ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon of sunscreen for your face; ½ teaspoon for your neck, and 2 tablespoons for your entire body.
4. Make sure you remove it thoroughly. Avoid sleeping with sunscreen on to prevent irritation or clogged pores. Use a makeup remover or oil-based cleanser to remove your sunscreen. Similarly, if your sunscreen is waterproof, look for a makeup remover compatible with waterproof makeup.
It’s Not All In The Numbers: The Truth About SPF
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. In essence, the SPF rating tells you how long a sunscreen is going to protect you from getting burnt. Specifically, the SPF number tells you how much UVB light (the kind of UV rays that cause sunburn) your sunscreen can filter out.
SPF 15 can filter out 93% of the sun’s UVB rays, which is not enough. Instead, go for at least an SPF 30, which filters out 97% of UVB rays. Even better, an SPF 50 blocks out 98% of UVB rays.
But what about SPF numbers in the 70s, 90s or 100+?
The truth is, while the degree of protection increases greatly between SPF 0 to 30, the added benefits are far less significant above SPF 50. One of the most dangerous misconceptions about wearing higher SPF is that they are exceptionally long-lasting/effective, which is false.
Remember, SPF only indicates how long you will remain protected by your sunscreen, not the quality of protection. Simply put, an SPF 2 protects as well as an SPF 30, just for a far shorter period of time. Given the marginal difference between SPF 50 and its higher-ups, it’s safe to say that any hype around extremely large SPF numbers (e.g. SPF 100, SPF 150 etc.) are mostly marketing tactics!
Nonetheless, as aforementioned, long-lasting sunscreens do not exist. Regardless of how high your SPF is, they will only be effective for so long (and arguably, for around the same amount of time). Layering over, or mixing an SPF 30 sunscreen with an SPF 50 one also isn’t going to give you extra hours of sun protection. It seriously doesn’t work that way. So we’ll emphasise it again — reapplication is key!
Stay tuned to Part II, III and IV of our Ultimate Sunscreen Guide for the low-down on SPF you need to know!