Most of us love to be tanned but that sad truth is that a healthy-looking 'golden glow' is a sign of sun damage, which is proven to cause wrinkles and increase the risk of skin cancer. The only way to protect your skin is to use a sunscreen which has a high sun protection factor (SPF) - but unless you choose the correct formulation and apply it liberally it won't work.
Here are my golden rules for staying safe in the sun...
Use a high SPF
The SPF tells you how long it would take for you to burn in the sun. If you apply SPF5, you would burn five times more slowly, if you have SPF50, you would burn 50 times more slowly. Very rarely would a dermatologist recommend using anything less than SPF50, even in the UK. Check that your sunscreen provides broad-spectrum coverage, which means that it protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays.
Choose the formulation that suits you best
Many people avoid high SPFs because they think the creams are too thick and greasy. This doesn’t have to be the case as the way that a sunscreen performs is entirely due to the chemicals within, not the consistency of the product. This means that it’s possible to choose SPF50 in a light, watery spray that’s quick and easy to apply. I like SunSense Sport Mist, which is easily-absorbed and non-greasy.
Try a combination of physical and chemical filters
Sunscreens work in one of two ways: by using minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide to create a physical barrier which reflects the sun's rays away from the skin, or by using a chemical filter, which absorbs the harmful UVA and UVB rays and coverts them into infrared heat. Chemical filters are more likely to irritate sensitive skin, but physical formulas coat the skin in a layer of cream which can cause reactions like prickly heat. Increasingly, brands are using a mix of the two to create the best protection with minimal risk of reaction. If you have sensitive skin, it’s often a process of trial and error to find the one that suits you best.
Apply more than you think you need
The main problem with sunscreen is that none of us use enough. You need to use a whole teaspoon to protect your face and neck and, if you're going to the beach, you need a whole shot glass-worth to cover your body. This sounds like a lot, but it should go on quite easily. Massage it into the skin, then give it a few minutes to sink in, especially if you're applying make-up over the top.
Don't rely on moisturiser or make-up with SPF
You still need to apply a sunscreen, even if your moisturiser or foundation contains SPF as these are too weak to protect your skin from the sun's rays. It's much safer to apply a dedicated sunscreen before make-up.
Apply before going outdoors
It takes at least 15 minutes for your skin to absorb sunscreen, so apply it well before you leave the house. If you don't apply it until you're outside and in the sun, your skin won’t be protected and you could burn.
Top up every two hours
If you're spending a lot of time outdoors, you'll need to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you've been swimming. Some sunscreens are designed to be applied just once per day, but these can create a false sense of security. Although some are very effective, it's still important to seek shade wherever possible - they don't give you licence to spend the entire day baking on the beach!
Wear sunscreen all year round
If you want to protect your skin from sun damage, it’s a good idea to wear facial sunscreen all year round - even in the winter. I recommend La Roche-Posay facial sun care, as they offer a range of formulations for all skin types, including a tinted version. SunSense Daily Face SPF50+ Invisible Tint Finish is also very light and easy to use.