Skincare Tips

Sunscreen and SPF: What You Really Need To Know

The long-awaited sunshine season has arrived. And just as you’re making a few much-needed tweaks to your wardrobe (like trading in your jumpers for dresses) as the weather gets warmer, it’s time for some new additions to your summer skincare routine too. 

While sun protection should be part of your routine year-round (you still get sun exposure on even the coldest, cloudiest of winter days), you may need to step it up a notch in the summer. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are more intense—and you’re probably spending more time outside during the spring and summer months—so, you want to make sure you’re getting the best protection. It’s vital to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays, which can not only accelerate skin’s ageing process, but also put you at risk for skin cancers. However, choosing the right one can be confusing. Sunscreens and SPF skincare products aren’t created equal. Here’s what to look for in the best sunscreen for your skin this summer, so you can enjoy the weather without looking, well, weathered.  

Look for sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB rays.

The terms SPF and sunscreen are often used interchangeably, but SPF, which stands for sun protection factor, only refers to the sun filters used to protect against UVB radiation, the rays responsible for the burns you get on the skin’s surface as well as skin cancers. The SPF rating is an indication of how long it would take your skin to burn with sunscreen versus if you didn’t wear any sunscreen. So, an SPF skincare product with SPF 30 means it will take you 30 times longer to burn while wearing it. But you also need protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, longer wavelengths that penetrate deeper into the skin and cause photoaging: fine lines and wrinkles, brown spots, changes in texture, redness and enlarged pores. UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer. 

To make sure you’re covered from both UVB and UVA rays, you want to look for the words “broad spectrum” on the product label. Some examples of UVA filters are Mexoyrl SX, avobenzone, as well as mineral-based filters such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Perricone MD always uses a broad spectrum mineral filter. For example, the High Potency Classics Face Finishing & Firming Tinted Moisturiser Broad Spectrum SPF 30 protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays with titanium dioxide.

Multi-task your summer skincare products.

Sunscreen doesn’t have to be the coconut-y-scented type made for beach and pool days. You can also get it in your anti-aging facial treatment products. Many Perricone MD skincare products designed to visibly correct and improve your complexion also have broad spectrum mineral-based sun protection in the formula. For example, Vitamin C Ester Photo-Brightening Moisturiser Broad Spectrum SPF 30 protects with titanium dioxide, and it also visibly brightens and helps to even out your skin tone with the potent antioxidant Vitamin C Ester. Plus, Alpha-Lipoic Acid helps to smooth fine lines and wrinkles. The lightweight, fast-absorbing moisturizer helps to protect against future sun damage as you visibly correct what current damage is already on the skin’s surface.  

How does SPF work? SPF numbers over 50 aren’t necessarily better.

Given what we said above about what an SPF rating means, it’s tempting to slather on the highest number you can find, right? Well, here’s where it gets tricky. Once you go above an SPF 50, there’s very little additional protection. No sunscreen, no matter how strong, can offer total protection. And although it sounds like SPF 100 sunscreen would offer twice the benefit of sunscreen with an SPF 50, this isn’t true. SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays, but SPF 50 blocks 98%. A sunscreen or skincare product with SPF 30 isn’t too far behind. It keeps 96.7% of UVB rays away from your skin. If your sunscreen of choice contains at least SPF 30, you don’t necessarily have to replace it with a higher number. Simply use as directed and reapply every two hours if you’re in the sun.

Different SPFs don’t add up. 

Math doesn’t apply when you layer on SPF skincare products. So, if your moisturizer contains SPF 15 sunscreen and you top it with a foundation with SPF 10, it doesn’t mean you get SPF 25 protection. You only get the UVB protection benefit of the highest single SPF product you use. Also, don’t assume that your clothes provide adequate protection for your body. While it’s always a good idea to cover up when you’ll be in the sun, a white cotton T-shirt only provides an approximate SPF 5. Darker coloured or tightly woven fabrics provide much more protection, as do some specially treated UV protective clothing. Bottom line: if you’re going to be outside for a prolonged period of time, applying sunscreen all over before you dress is ideal.  

You can, however, use different SPF skincare products for different areas of your body. SPF skincare products designed for your face tend to be thinner and more elegant than body sunscreens, and as we mentioned, many have anti-ageing benefits. Also, don’t forget or neglect areas where the skin is especially delicate and prone to sun damage, such as your neck and décolleté. Cold Plasma Plus+ Neck & Chest Broad Spectrum SPF 25 protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and it also visibly improves the appearance of lines, crepey skin and discolouration.

Apply plenty of sunscreen and apply it often.

When you find a sunscreen you like, the most critical thing you can do to maximize your protection is to apply it often and in adequate quantities. As a visual cue, you need a shot glass full of sunscreen to cover your whole body. If you apply less, you lessen the amount of protection you receive. According to the New York Times, if you use half the recommended quantity of an SPF 70 sunscreen, you only get the protection of an SPF 8.4. That’s a big difference in protection levels.

It’s also important to know that one application in the morning doesn’t mean you’re protected all day. Sweating, swimming and friction all make the benefits of sunscreen less effective, as does exposure to sunlight. So, regardless of which type of sunscreen you’re wearing, it’s important to reapply every two hours when you’re outside.

All sunscreens may not be created equal, but if you keep these things in mind, you’ll find the best sunscreen for your skin. Whether you choose a cream, gel or spray, when sun protection is a regular part of your health and beauty routine, it helps ensure your skin stays protected, beautiful and youthful-looking for years to come. 



Writer and expert