We all know that wearing sun cream is an incredibly important way of looking after our skin. However, knowing this in theory and actually regularly using the right protection tends to be easier said than done. But understanding SPF and all the factors can be confusing.
Most people break out the selection of sunscreens and wide-brimmed hats for their foreign holiday, but it is essential to take care of your skin in Ireland – even if our sunny days are few and far in between!
With over 13,000 new cases diagnosed each year in Ireland, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in this country and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland expects the current figures to double in the next two decades.
To help make it that bit easier for, we have broken down some of the terms used around sun protection and why it is so beneficial to choose the right SPF products. We have also included some of our favourite sun creams and if you are looking for products to add SPF to your skincare and make up routines then check out our other great article Using SPF is the best thing you can do for your skin!
SPF (Sun Protection Factor)
SPF is a measure of the level of protection your sun cream offers you against UVB rays. The number is an indication of how much protection you get from that particular option. In theory the higher the SPF, the greater the protection. However, while there are options reaching all the way up to SPF of 100, experts believe that a factor of above 60 is not as helpful as we might believe. The recommendation is that an SPF of 50 is adequate protection once properly applied.
UV (Ultraviolet) Rays
Ultraviolet is most commonly found in the sun and is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is harmful to the skin. UV rays damage the skin causing diseases including skin cancer and also giving the appearance of premature ageing. The rays can also cause eye problems.
UV rays are emitted by the sun in three forms. UVA, UVB and UVC. However, while UVC rays are the most harmful, they do not reach the surface of the earth as the atmosphere filters them entirely so we don’t have to worry about them.
UVA rays are the long wave ultraviolet rays. They can penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB, reaching the thickest layer of skin – the dermis. UVB rays are the short wave ultraviolet rays. They are the primary cause of burns and superficial damage to the outer layers of the skin. Many sun creams only include UVA or UVB so it is important to check that the label of your sun cream mentions a combination of protection against both
Choosing a factor
Understanding SPF and all the factors can be confusing. If you are going to be out in the sun, especially for prolonged periods of time, a higher factor closer to 50 is the best protection and needs to be regularly reapplied every few hours.
Even on overcast and cloudy days wearing sun cream is still important. Clouds block the sun but they only filter around 20% of the harmful UV rays that we need to avoid all year around. To protect your skin from damage it is important to use an SPF during every season, even if it is of a slightly lower factor.
It might sound a little extreme but actually dermatologists and skincare experts recommend the inclusion of SPF in your skincare routine daily even if you are staying indoors. Something as seemingly simple as spending time sitting near a window can still damage your skin so wearing a lower factor daily is worthwhile. Some sun creams also contain ingredients that protect against the harmful blue light emitted from our screens so chose your formula with care. Getting into the habit of regularly using sun cream will also be of huge benefit for your skin in the long term!
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Do you feel that you have a better understanding of SPF now?