The truth about SPF and sunscreen

June 17th 2015 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 1 comment


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We ask a dermatologist and skincare expert to answer our burning questions

When it comes to SPF, are we using it correctly and are our sunscreens of choice providing sufficient protection?

An invaluable part of our skincare regimes needed to protect us against prematurely ageing UVA rays, sunburn-inducing UVB rays and ultimately, skin cancer, we decided to seek the advice of cosmetic dermatologist and Get The Gloss Expert Dr Tapan Patel for some answers to our suncare queries. From the best sunscreen buys to the truth about the SPF protection in our cosmetics, here’s how to stay safe and sunburn free this summer and beyond.

What does SPF mean?

“The acronym ‘SPF’ stands for Sun Protection Factor and is used to gauge the longevity of protection provided by the sunblock. For example, if you burn within 20 minutes of exposure to the sun, an SPF 15 is formulated to protect you 15 times longer (around 5 hours).”

How does SPF work?

“An SPF 50 will provide you with longer protection, meaning it should theoretically need to be applied less frequently than say, an SPF 30. It also blocks a higher percentage of UVB rays from the sun, meaning you are less likely to burn or experience skin damage.”

How often should you reapply it?

“It is advisable to top up your sunblock once every four hours or so, but it is important to read the label on your sunblock to follow the directions of use, as this differs from brand to brand and SPF. You should apply sunblock every morning, even if you are not tanning on the beach. It helps to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, as well as act as an anti-ageing protocol. It is much better to be safe than sorry.”

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What would be your recommendations for an effective suncare regime?

“I would ideally like every patient of mine to use an antioxidant first thing in the morning, something like a Vitamin C serum with a high percentage of active ingredient. Then they should apply sunblock every morning, before applying their makeup.”

What are the most common SPF and sunscreen pitfalls?

“Avoid using tanning oils or low SPF sunblocks. Many people fail to reapply their sunblock as frequently as they should and should bear in mind that the lower the SPF, the less coverage you are getting. Although sunblocks used to be cakey and sticky, there are many on the market now which are matte, lightweight and effective.”

Do moisturisers and makeup with SPF provide adequate protection?

“BB creams and foundations which claim to have an SPF are not substitutes for a good, protective sunblock. They rarely contain a high enough SPF to really protect the skin from sun damage, and should only really be applied in conjunction with a traditional sunblock.”

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Which are the best sunscreens?

“I prescribe the Obagi Medical Sun Shield, £59.12 and the Sheer Mineral UV Defense from SkinCeuticals, £35 as they come with extensive clinical studies and trials and are extremely popular amongst patients.”

Follow us @getthegloss, Dr Tapan Patel @drtapanp and Ayesha @Ayesha_Muttu.


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  • amanda brewer
  • July 5th 2015

I tried the Skinseuticals Sunscreen. It smells slightly of petrol and leaves you looking ghostly white. The search for a truly invisible, high SPF that doesn't give you pale skin, watery eyes and WORKS goes on!...

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