What’s SPF ? SPF seems to appear on so many products these days, not just a bottle or tube of our favourite sun cream, but on skincare and make-up. A good thing right? Well in theory, yes.
Firstly, it’s important we all understand what it is and what it means exactly. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It’s always followed by a number when it appears on a product (in the UK). That number is what you you should multiply by the time (in minutes), you are likely to see burning on your skin if you went into the sun without any sun cream. Let’s say for me, I could tolerate 80degress of direct sunshine for around 10minutes before I felt the burn. 10 x the SPF factor is how long I could now stay in the direct sun, without burning once I’d applied a level of sun cream. So an SPF15 means 150minutes (approx 2 hours), before I’d need to reapply.
What does it protect us from? UVA and UVB rays are present in the sunlight that penetrates Earth’s atmosphere. UVA is the light that can age the skin and UVB causes the burning so it’s important your sun cream offers a barrier to both. The SPF number is the protection against the UVB and if your sun cream protects to a high degree against UVA rays, look out for the 1 to 5 star rating next to UVA logo.
What types of sun cream are there? The are two types of sun creams - mineral and chemical. As mineral-based suns creams physically block UV rays, containing ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, rather than filtering the rays like chemical versions, they have in the past been seen as “white, sticky and not as easy to use”. However, recent improvements in mineral sun creams has proven manufacturer's were listening to criticism and are now seen as more effective in preventing sun burn (or worse), compared to their chemical counterparts.
How much to apply? That’s the million dollar question and this is something that is rarely understood by any user. There is no accurate guide for this and all sun creams are different but a simple rule of thumb approach is;
For the face, ears and neck around 1 tablespoon. Applied with the fingers (not a mit) and rubbed in so the cream disappears – it also needs to soak into the skin to be effective so stay out of direct sun light for around the first 10 minutes.
For your torso (in full) another tablespoon (yes, depends on body size). For your back, it’s the same. Use another on both full arms, and another two to cover all your legs and feet. Again, rub it in and don’t go into direct sunlight for around 10 minutes.
Remember, going into water (even if it’s water-resistant cream), or sweating and wiping yourself will reduce the effectiveness of every sun cream. Reapplying depends on how often your skin needs it but at least every couple of hours is safe.
Does SPF work in cosmetics? Great question and the whole purpose of this blog..... So now we know what an important job sun cream does and how much of it to apply, we should also be looking for every bit of help, by buying skincare and makeup products that contain sun protection…...shouldn’t we? I mean it must work if the cosmetic manufactures keep putting the SPF number on a bottle......shouldn't it?
Well, go back to the million dollar answer – about how much to apply in order to get the protection you need. Then have a think about how much moisturiser you use, or how much foundation you might apply…..it’s tiny by comparison. So when you take that tiny amount of product you are NOT applying the full SPF factor advertised. You would still need to apply around 1 tablespoon to the face...who does that for moisturisers or foundations? Now look at how many brands especially those marketing foundations, advertise this as a key feature of their product.
How many of you look at that on a bottle and believe for every application (perhaps a pea sized amount of moisturiser or 2 pumps of foundation), you’re applying SPF15, or 20, whatever is advertised and believe that's the SPF you’re getting from it? I’m guessing it’s a lot and I only started to think about this when I applied sun cream and wondered how cosmetic manufactures got their SPF working in tiny quantities but sun cream manufacturers were still asking us to put a tablespoon on our faces. The answer quickly became apparent that they don’t. Nor do they have to. None of them are breaking any laws in the UK (or other parts of the world). However, I find this to be so misleading and frighteningly dangerous I’m investigating much further and will be writing to anyone I think can help me change the approach on this.
The surest and safest way to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays is to rely on a sun cream with an SPF of at least 15. For your face, apply it on top of your usual moisturiser, ahead of any foundation and make up. But before you all scream at me that foundation and other make up products don’t look as good that way, you should remember, once your sun cream is rubbed in, leave it for 10 mins. Go and make a drink, take a little extra time. It’s worth it. Then apply your make up as usual and if you pick carefully, there are sun creams that will work with foundations, won’t make them cakey and won’t reflect that awful white flashback if you’re a selfie diva.
I’ve tried several over the last 12 months and the one I keep going back to for my face, is Clinique Mineral Sun Screen. Don’t bother with the one specifically designed for your face – it’s the same as the one for your body overall. It needs a few minutes to sink in properly but won’t give you the flashback on photos so Instagram and Facebook can still be your best friend.
Perhaps another point to remember is adding 10 minutes a day to your routine may prevent skin cancer. Worth every minute when you consider the are over 15,000 annual cases of melanoma skin cancer in the UK and 86% of those are avoidable. 86%. Imagine the numbers if you live in a country with a lot more sunshine than the UK.
Should I avoid cosmetics with SPF in them? The effects of the SPF in cosmetics may not have the desired effect a manufacturer intended but it doesn’t do the skin any harm, if you ensure you have full SPF protection from another source. I’m always keen to point out to a sales rep at the make up counter that the SPF feature is bunkum and doesn’t work (they are always surprised), but I haven’t yet started removing my favourite cosmetic products as a result. Just educated myself that if I want sun protection I use a sun cream, not a foundation and crossed fingers.
The web page for the British Association of Dermatologists is Here
None of my blogs will be sponsored and any products I highlight are my personal recommendations only.
Hi, I'm Amanda and I started this blog to share Make-up and Skin care advice for those kissing goodbye to their 40's who want to preserve their pout, avoid wrinkles and embrace the power of make up!.
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Decided to start my own channel - OlderBolderBeauty - and intend to upload viedoes from late October. Look out for product reviews, advice and bloopers!
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