Want to know the best beauty advice you’ll ever hear? Simple, wear sunscreen every day. Yes, even when it’s raining and you’re spending the day cooped up inside. Wearing a sunscreen every day won’t only help prevent painful sunburn but it protects you against harmful UVA and UVB rays. But how many of us are using sunscreen and actually know how to use it? We chatted to Karen Bester, Medical Trainer at Lamelle Research Laboratories, who answered our most burning sunscreen questions.
Should I wear sunscreen every day?
Short answer, yes. During South Africa’s summer months, temperatures get to about an average of about 26°C and we know that this is not great for our skin. Being constantly exposed to these temperatures (and lower) can cause premature ageing, pigmentation to darken and can lead to illnesses of the skin including skin cancer. So, Karen advises that you cover up when you plan on being exposed to sunlight. Besides wearing sun-protective clothing, you need to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen — one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays- before heading out.
What the lowest SPF I should go for?
“Sun protection habits are well studied and well known. From trials, we know that, in general, we do not apply enough product to get the actual protection factor that is advertised on the bottle. To protect your skin adequately, from a general in and out of buildings and cars etc, you would need at least an SPF 15. But I would recommend a 30 SPF or higher to accommodate the fact that you are not applying enough product to the skin,” explains Karen.
What does UVA and UVB even mean?
UVA refers to long-wave ultraviolet while UVB refers to short-wave ultraviolet. “UVB does not penetrate the skin well and will cause more burning effects in the top layers of the skin. [Whereas] UVA penetrates better and will cause more ageing effects,” says Karen. Both of these frequencies cause darkening of skin and cause free radical damage to skin cells and DNA.
It can be challenging to avoid UVA rays you can’t really feel or see the effects until later on. And given that it can penetrate through cloud cover and glass, you can’t hide from it- even in the office. UVB rays account for about 5% of the ray that touches the earth as they are filtered through the Ozone, cloud cover and can’t penetrate glass. Overexposure of UVB rays lead to sunburns and in severe cases, blistering could happen.
READ MORE: Here’s What You Need To Know About Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide Sunscreens
Is SPF make-up enough to protect you in summer?
“Generally, the SPF in your make up will only be around 7 or 15 SPF. This is not high enough to get adequate daily protection. And very few women apply make-up to the full neck and shoulder area — the are that takes the most hammering from the sun when you are in your car or outdoors with your hat on,” says Karen. She advises that instead of just relaying on the SPF in makeup, its better to use a separate sunscreen and then apply your SPF make-up.
Can I use body sunscreen on my face?
The skin on your face is much more sensitive and will react differntly to sunscreen than your body does. Sunscreen specially formulated for yoru face will undergo testing that body screen doesn’t. This ensures that it doesn’t cause blored pore, trigger acne or irritate the skin. “The skin on your body is much tougher and has a different pH to your facial skin. For this reason it would be best to use a specialised facial sunscreen and a more robust body sunscreen.
Karen’s tips for staying safe this summer
- Apply sunscreen every day before you go into the sun.
- Even a high SPF does not give you 100% protection, so if you are outdoors and in the sun re-apply your sun protection products every 2-3 hours.
- Re-apply sun protection products when you are swimming or sweating (even water-resistant sunscreens – resistant not waterproof).
- Remember the tip of your nose and your tips of your ears.
- Wear sun-protective clothing — hats and shirts.
- Stay out of the sun between 12h00 and 15h00.
- Drink extra antioxidants if you are planning on being in the sun
- If you are a high risk for burning (very fair skin) or skin cancer (you or a direct family member have received treatment for skin cancer) look for a product that will give you more than just UVA and UVB protection