Most of us appreciate that in order to protect our skin we need to wear broad-spectrum sun protection on a daily basis, even when it is cloudy out. But wearing sunscreen is only half of a great defence; to properly protect our skin, ward off the early signs of photo-ageing (like wrinkles and excess pigmentation) and reduce our chances of developing skin cancer, we need to ensure that we’re apply our sun protection properly.
Studies show that it can take years – even decades – for skin cancer to develop as the UV damage to skin (that results in skin cancer) accumulates over a long time. Basically, just because your skin looks healthy now doesn’t mean that burn you recently experienced hasn’t had an impact, it will just take a while for it to become apparent. According to the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) those with fairer skins who burn easily carry a higher risk of developing skin cancer, but all skin types, colours and races are susceptible to UV damage and skin cancer. The message is this: wear sunscreen, wear it every day and wear it in the right way. Here’s everything you need to know to ensure your skin receives the high level of protection it needs:
Choose A High Protection Factor
That factor 15 oil you like to sunbathe in is not offering your skin anything like the protection it actually needs to remain healthy. The BAD recommends using an SPF 30 at a minimum and ensuring it is water resistant and broad-spectrum. Broad-spectrum means your chosen product protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate the skin where they cause damage at a cellular level which results in premature signs of ageing and, you guessed it, skin cancer. UVB on the other hand, creates damage on the surface of the skin which is why a day in the sun can leave you burnt. Burning is never a good idea as overtime it can also lead to skin cancer plus it effectively obliterates the skin’s natural defence barrier.
Lastly, make sure your sunscreen is still safe to use. Check the packaging for an icon that looks like a tub with a number inside; the number correlates to the number of months the product remains effective once the bottle has been opened. Don’t be tempted to use a sunscreen after this, as it will not provide adequate protection.
Time Your SPF Application
SPF doesn’t work on immediate contact with skin, the BAD advises application 15 to 30 minutes before you head outdoors to allow the protection to really kick into gear. If you apply just before heading out into the sun your skin will be left defenceless. Bear this mind when you’re getting ready in the morning or if you are preparing for a day at the beach and ensure that you have left enough time for your sun protection to begin working before you leave home.
Cover All Bases
It’s all-too-easy to absentmindedly miss exposed areas of skin when applying sunscreen but it is important to ensure that every patch is properly protected. The BAD warn, “don’t forget to apply to the back and sides of your neck, temples and ears, which are all commonly missed.” In our experience the backs of knees are another area often forgotten and, if you wear your hair in a parting, your scalp too. Make sure you have covered every area of skin that is likely to see sunlight and either apply the same product directly to your parting – and your hairline – or use an SPF mist for hair, such as Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil UV Protective Dry Oil Finishing Spray. Don’t forget to give your lips the protection they need too with Coola Liplux SPF30 Organic Vanilla Peppermint Lip Sunscreen.
More Is More
The BAD report that “most people apply less than half of the amount of SPF required to provide sufficient protection.” When it comes to properly protecting your skin it pays to be generous with the amount of SPF you apply. The BAD say that most adults need around 36 grams – or the equivalent of six full teaspoons – to effectively cover the body if you’re using lotion but the general rule is “more is better.” Once you have dispensed the product onto your skin, massage it in and make sure you apply it right up to – and under – the edges of your bathing suit to avoid an uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous, burn.