Confused About Sunscreen? Answers to 7 frequently asked questions about SPF


No sane vacationer or seaside day tripper would leave home without a tube or two of sunscreen. We all know that sunburn is not only painful, but very bad for our skin, and that a generous layer of cream is essential in preventing the risk of developing skin cancer.

But as for the details, what do you really know about sunscreen? Can you, for example, still use the bottles you bought last year? Do children need more protection than adults? And what about those state-of-the-art facial mists – are they really potent enough to repel harmful rays?

We asked skin care experts to answer us on seven common SPF queries.

1. Does the sunscreen go off?

Woman with sunscreen relaxing on the beach

“Yes, and using an SPF that’s past its shelf life means it won’t protect effectively,” says Abi Cleeve, MD at Ultrasun UK and founder of SkinSense. “Always check the small symbol on the bottle, a jar with the number of months of effectiveness after opening.”

She adds: “All Ultrasun products have a shelf life of two years after opening, compared to an average of 6 to 12 months for most sunscreens, due to the specific lamellar formula used.

2. Should children always wear a factor 50?

Mother applying sunscreen lotion to her child on the beach

Laura Harker, screening nurse at the Mole Clinic, says: “Babies and young children need extra care, and children under six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. This is because their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage from repeated exposure to the sun could lead to the development of skin cancer later in life.

She recommends that parents use at least SPF 30 on their children, depending on “the age and strength of the sun.” Ideally, in summer, children should cover themselves with suitable clothing and spend time in the shade, especially from 11 am to 3 pm, when the sun is strongest ”.

3. Why does sunscreen sometimes give spots?

“This can often be due to the formula,” says Cleeve. “The physical formulas sit on the surface of the skin, which can cause irritation, or the presence of perfume and emulsifiers can cause a reaction in sensitive skin.”

Check the ingredient list if you want to avoid these acne-causing irritants and look for non-comedogenic sunscreen, which means it won’t clog pores.

“The spots can be caused by improper removal of sunscreen,” says Chelsey Edmunds, Campaigns and Communications Manager at Escentual. “Use an oil-based cleanser to remove, as filters can clog pores. “

4. Do SPF mists really protect your face enough?

“A good quality mist sunscreen can be just as effective as a good quality cream sunscreen – as long as you apply the mist in sufficient amounts,” says Harker.

To get adequate coverage, Cleeve says it takes “a bit more vigilance to make sure there aren’t any missed pieces, so make sure they’re rubbed as well. After that first full application , a mist is also great for “on the go” and over-makeup “top-ups.

5. Do foundations with sunscreen work as well as applying sunscreen with the same SPF?

“No, because not all foundations are broad spectrum, which protects against UVA rays,” says Edmunds. “This is due to the number of filters which must be less, because the pigment of the foundation must be higher. To get the same protection from a broad spectrum SPF 30, you’ll need to apply 15 coats of foundation.

Plus, there’s the issue of reapplication, Harker points out: “All sunscreens need to be reapplied frequently to remain effective, and most people don’t want to reapply foundation frequently, so there is. greater risk of under-protection when using SPF. foundation.”

6. Are sunscreens really waterproof?

“Waterproof sunscreens don’t really exist. Water resistant sunscreens do, ”says Edmunds, which means they are tested to ensure up to 40 minutes of resistance underwater.

Even if you’re not swimming, remember to reapply, Harker explains: “These sunscreens will need to be reapplied more frequently because exposure to water – or even sweat – quickly reduces the all-important sun protection factor. . “

7. Are expensive sunscreens really better, or are you just paying for the brand name?

When choosing sunscreen, you need to consider the SPF (UVB) number, UVA filter percentage, and formula, says Cleeve, regardless of brand or price. “Go for an SPF of 30 or more and a UVA filter percentage greater than 90%. Ultrasun puts the percentage on the product for convenience.

Harker recommends selecting a product with a UVA rating of four or five stars “rather than [based on] price, because the higher the price does not always mean the higher the protection ”.

Beyond these important notes, Edmunds says the price difference between sunscreens comes down to “the technology and the texture.” Like many things in life, you get what you pay for. Better quality sunscreens usually contain better ingredients, feel better, and provide better protection for your skin, but you can get adequate protection with budget products.


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