Sun series: Inside SPF
Now it's time to take an in-depth look at SPF and what it actually means. After all, you've likely all heard the warnings that you shouldn't be out in the bright rays without it, but do you actually know why?
To understand why picking the right level of sun protection is so important first of all you need to know what is happening with your skin when you go outside bare. According to Paula's Choice founder Paula Begoun, whose ethos is that all skincare choices should always be based on firm research, the dilemma is as much in what you don't see as what you do.
"The problem with inflammation is that sometimes we know we're being enflamed, right? You put your hand on the hot burner, it hurts, and look you can see the inflammation and skin is damaged. But with a lot of inflammation that happens for the skin, you just don't see and you don't feel," she explained to Cover Media. "In the early 90s studies started coming out that inflammation can take place in skin and you would never know it. The reason we know that inflammation and irritation hides in skin is sun damage. You walk outside, or you sit next to a window, the first minute your skin sees the sun, damage begins. The first minute - it's astounding research. What happens, and you don't feel it, collagen begins breaking down, elastin begins breaking down, the substances in the skin that protect it from the environment begin breaking down. Skin cells to one degree or another, actually begin mutating and you don't feel it."
Sounds scary, right? Now we have your attention it's time to get to grips with which factor of sunscreen you should be wearing - and how often you need to be applying it. Pay particular attention to this if you think slapping on a bit of protection will see you through a whole day on the beach.
"SPF is a number which indicates how long you can stay in the sun without burning from UVB. It does not however tell us anything about UVA. If your skin burns normally after ten minutes in the sun, applying SPF15 means that you can stay in the sun for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer)," Dr Marko Lens, who is an internationally renowned authority in the field of skin aging and skin cancer, told Cover Media. "SPF30 will allow the same person to stay for approximately 300 minutes without burning (a factor of 30 times longer)."
So obviously this means that reapplication has to be part of your routine. And on top of that, you're probably not applying enough in the first place. Dr Lens advises 2ml. per cm2 of the body, which translates to one teaspoon over the face and neck, one for each arm, two on each leg and two on your front and back.
"Sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours," he explained. "SPF30 is recommended on holiday. I would also recommend SPF30 in the city."
There are other steps you can take to protect yourself too. Think about what you're wearing for one thing - hats will stop your head getting burnt and in very hot climates loose, long-sleeved tops are a good idea too. Also don't forget your eyes and make sure you shield them with sunglasses that protect from UVA and UVB rays.