As anyone living in the UK will know, if the sun is shining you need to make the most of it as there’s no guarantee when it’ll come back. Sob.
While we all love a good beach day, unfortunately, you really can have too much of a good thing. Why? Well, because too much sun exposure can result in sunburn, premature ageing and damaged skin.
Luckily, there’s a summer skincare essential that can help you to enjoy the sun for longer by blocking and absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays with both chemical and physical particles. Enter: sunscreen.
But why wear sunscreen? I spoke to Dr Giuseppe Aragona, GP and online doctor for Prescription Doctor, on the importance of slapping on the sun cream as well as how to choose the best sunscreen for your skin type.
Why Wear Sunscreen? 3 Big Benefits
Of the many different rays present in sunlight, UVB and UVA are the two main types that can both reach the ground and wreak havoc with your skin. They account for 5% and 95% of the sun’s UV rays respectively.
- UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburn and potentially even skin cancer, including malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
- UVA rays also contribute to the formation of skin cancer, but penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays. They can also cause photoaging, aka premature aging.
However, one thing both of these rays have in common is that their harmful effects can be prevented by a layer of frequently reapplied sunscreen.
“Sunscreen is incredibly important to wear daily to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays,” Dr Giuseppe says. “[They] can easily penetrate the skin barrier even through clouds so it’s not just something that should be applied on holiday.”
It turns out that wearing sunscreen every day not only makes you smell like a summer holiday (remember them?) but also carries some major health benefits. Here are just three answers to the question “why wear sunscreen?”
1. It Minimises the Risk of Sunburn
Sunburn is usually the very first sign that you’ve fallen victim to the sun’s harmful UV radiation.
A one-off, accidental burn generally won’t do much long-term harm. Even so, it isn’t something to make a habit of. Repeated sun damage can lead to more serious skin issues like premature wrinkling or even skin cancer.
An important thing to note is many sunscreens only contain ingredients focused on blocking UVB rays, leaving your skin vulnerable to the harmful effects of UVA radiation. So basically, always check the label.
2. It Prevents Premature Aging
Hands up if you’ve ever cleared out the anti-ageing aisle of your local Boots after noticing the faintest of lines pop up under your eyes?
We’ve all been there. But, did you know that spending too much time in the sunny great outdoors without sunscreen can accelerate photo-ageing?
Luckily, just by slathering on some sunscreen you can fight off dark spots, wrinkles, leathery or drooping skin and pigmentation. Sounds like a no-brainer!
Don’t just take my word for it though. “You should be applying sunscreen every day if you want to keep your skin looking youthful and wrinkle and sun spot free,” adds Dr Giuseppe.
3. It Works As A Form of Skin Cancer Prevention
One of the most important answers to the question why wear sunscreen is to prevent skin cancer.
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, with at least 100,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
Sure, it isn’t the sole factor responsible. However, getting sunburnt can greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer to the point that if you suffer five or more sunburns, you can double your risk for melanoma.
So even though it may seem inconvenient to cover every exposed part of your skin before you go out (yes, we know it’s hard to reach everywhere yourself), it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
In fact, by keeping your sun protection topped up throughout the day, you can drastically reduce your risk of developing this disease.
How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for Your Skin Type
Now that we’ve answered the all-important question of why wear sunscreen, the next step is choosing the right type for your skin.
“Choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type is important because if you do not you could put your skin at risk of developing pimples and acne from the oiliness,” Dr Giuseppe explains.
With that in mind, here’s how to find your perfect match.
1. Find Out Which Skin Type You Have
First things first, you’ll need to know which skin type you have. Knowing this will allow you to make more informed choices when buying products, leading to healthier, more glowing skin. I call that a win-win.
Though everyone’s skin is unique, there are five primary skin types:
- Normal – Your skin is well-balanced, not too oily or too dry. You don’t tend to suffer from breakouts or flakiness.
- Oily – Your skin has excess oil, and your T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) is prone to breakouts, and has a shiny or greasy appearance.
- Combination – Your skin has both dry and oily areas.
- Dry – Your skin is rough, flaky or irritated, and looks and feels dehydrated.
- Sensitive – This varies from person to person, but is generally characterised by visible dryness or redness and discomfort.
While a trip to a dermatologist will answer any questions you have about your skin type, you can also find out what skin type you have from the comfort of your own bathroom. Just use either the Bare-Face Method or Blotting Sheet Method (both outlined here).
2. Give Your Skin What It Needs!
Now you know which skin type you have, it’s time to listen to what it needs from sunscreen.
If you have normal skin it’s your lucky day as you’ll find that virtually any sunscreen will work with your skin type. It may just be a case of trial and error to find the best fit.
As for those with oily skin, you’ll need to pay more attention to the fine print. Dr Giuseppe explains, “If you suffer with oily skin, you should opt for an oil-free or non-comedogenic sunscreen which will not clog the pores.
There are many on the market which are tailored to oily skin, just have a look at the ingredients list and ensure you are choosing one which is oil-free and with fast absorption.”
He also recommends oil-free and non-comedogenic sunscreen for those with acne-prone skin, and suggests “sensitive skin types should opt for sunscreens which are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic to ensure no skin flare ups or irritation.”
Meanwhile, those with dry or combination skin should look for more hydrating formulas. “You should go for a sunscreen which offers a hydrating, thicker consistency and will moisturise the skin while also protecting it,” Dr Giuseppe adds.
3. Look Into Physical Versus Chemical
The next decision to make is whether to opt for physical or chemical sunscreen.
For those not familiar with the difference, Dr Giuseppe summarises, “Chemical sunscreen is absorbed quickly into the skin and appears invisible. [It] absorbs the UV rays, converts those rays into heat and removes them from the body. Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin and reflects the sun’s rays.”
Chemical sunscreen tends to have a thinner texture and come in spray product form. On the other hand, physical sunscreen is the traditional bottled white cream that takes forever to rub in. (You know the type…)
But though you might have your personal preference already, when it comes to which is best to use, Dr Giuseppe says it all comes down to your skin type.
“Most physical sunscreens have a thicker consistency and would be best for dry skin types, whereas chemical sunscreens which offer a more invisible coverage would work for oily skin types.”
4. Choose Your Sunscreen Brand Wisely
But with so many sunscreen brands on offer, which should you choose?
While wearing any sun cream will help protect your skin, you should always try to shop for dermatologically-friendly sunscreen brands where possible.
“There are a few brands which I always recommend, and those are La Roche-Posay, Kiehl’s, Avène, SkinCeuticals and ZO Skin,” adds Dr Giuseppe.
Which SPF Should I Use?
So now you’ve chosen the right sunscreen for your skin type, you’re ready to go – right?
Well, not quite. There’s one last thing to take into account when buying sunscreen: Sun Protection Factor, more widely known as SPF.
There’s a common misconception that the paler your skin, the higher the SPF you need. However, contrary to popular belief, SPF is actually an indicator of the length of time it would take for the sun’s UV rays to burn your skin with sunscreen in comparison to without any sunscreen.
In other words, if you wear SPF 30 sunscreen, your skin would take 30 times longer to burn than it would without any protection.
Remember to apply your first layer 20 minutes before sun exposure and then reapply frequently (every two hours or so) throughout the day, especially if you’re sweating or going in and out of water.
According to the NHS, you should wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, in addition to balancing your time in the sun with periods in the shade.
Why Wear Sunscreen? Because It’s Protective!
To sum up: why wear sunscreen? Well, though UV rays tend to be at their strongest over the spring and summer between the hours of 10am and 4pm, they can (and will) strike even on cloudy or drizzly days.
Therefore, even though it might feel like it’s always raining in England, sun cream is essential if you want to keep your skin healthy and burn-free.
Long story short, it’s time to add sunscreen (hello, tinted moisturiser with SPF) to your morning beauty routine.
This article was written by Talya Honebeek, a North Yorkshire-based freelance writer covering everything from food and drink to the latest fashion and beauty trends. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading a good book, eating too much pasta or going for walks in wholly inappropriate footwear.