Looking for a new SPF sunscreen but don’t know where to start? If there’s one skincare item most practitioners had to recommend for ultimate skin health, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s sunscreen. Not only does it stave off wrinkles and other signs of ageing, but it’s also vital for reducing the risk of skin cancer. If you’re looking for a new SPF sunscreen but don’t know where to start, read on to find out the true importance of wearing sunscreen as well as Dr Malaika Smith’s top SPF picks for every budget.
The Best SPF for Every Price Range
Skin cancer is real and on the rise
Let’s just take a moment to be real here. Skin cancer cases are on the rise and, despite attempts to educate the public about the risks of sun damage and melanoma by organisations like Skcin.org, figures analysed by The British Association of Dermatologists reveal that skin cancer cases have hit a record high in England. Furthermore, Cancer Research UK has reported 16,700 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year with 2,300 (that’s more than 6 a day!) ending in death.
These figures are a stark reminder, as we head into the sunnier months, that we must all stay vigilant about protecting our skin from the damaging effects of UV. Using a good SPF - and one that is right for your skin - is one way of doing this.
What is SPF? And what does SPF actually stand for?
Sun Protection Factor (known better as SPF) is a term we hear and use often, but what does it all actually mean? And how can we make sure that we can achieve the maximum amount of protection necessary to combat skin cancer and melanoma? When it comes to sun cream, there's an array of products to choose from. They are, however, not all created equally. SPF on all and any protection you can buy, refers to the amount of protection a product provides against damaging ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, but not A. For UVA protection, you need to look at a broad spectrum sunscreen, such as Heliocare, observing the star rating to show the amount of UVA protection provided.
The number (e.g. SPF50) indicates the amount of time you are protected for. But it is not the amount in minutes. SPF 50, for example, means you have 50x the amount of time that you would normally be protected in the sun. So if unprotected, you can spend 10 minutes in the sun without burning, wearing SPF 50 would give you 500 minutes of protection. However, we would ALWAYS recommend wearing at least factor 30 to our patients at Dr Malaika Clinics, and to reapply every 2 hours, or after swimming/exercise, etc, because the damaging effects of UVA/B rays can happen without burning.
What is UV radiation? UVA and UVB explained
So what actually is UV radiation and what damage does it do to skin? There are 3 main groups to consider:
UVA rays have the least energy among UV rays. They can cause skin cells to age and can cause some indirect damage to cells’ DNA. UVA rays are mainly linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers. UVA rays are able to get through the clouds, as well as windows and clothes. It is, therefore, vital to protect your skin from UVA rays all year round.
UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA. They can damage the DNA in skin cells directly, and are what causes sunburn. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
What sunscreen is right for me?
Choosing sun protection can feel like a minefield. Our advice is to opt for something that you will wear everyday, that fits in with the rest of your skincare routine and that you enjoy using. There are two main types of sunscreen, and it’s important to know how often you need to apply them. Let’s take a look…
Chemical sunscreens are for every day use. However, be aware that you need to apply these at least 30 minutes before going outside. They are absorbed readily by the skin, and the chemicals within them absorb UV rays, converting them into heat. Those with sensitive skin should tread with caution, as the chemicals can irritate skin. Due to their thin, non-greasy formula, they are recommended for acne prone/oily skin. Active ingredients include things like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, homosalate and others. Some chemical sunscreens that we recommend are:
£££ ZO Skin Health
Please note that ZO Skinhealth products are only available from trained healthcare professionals, and require a consultation. They are not available to purchase online.
££ Bondi Sands
If you are purchasing this (or any other products) via Look Fantastic, please feel free to use this code for 20% off: LFTFDRMALAIKA
£ La Roche Posay
This can also be purchased as a tinted SPF, and is fantastic under makeup. This is also acne and sensitive skin friendly, which most chemical SPFs are not)
Physical (mineral) sunscreens
Physical (or mineral) sunscreens form a barrier that sits on the skin and reflects UV rays. They are thicker, and generally leave a white residue. Physical sunscreen is effective immediately after application, and is considered safe for marine life (although research continues). It is also recommended for sensitive skin or rosacea. Active ingredients include zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. Some mineral sunscreens we recommend are:
Heliocare is a range of skin protection products that offer broad spectrum UV A and B, as well as infrared light, visible light, and pollution. Though you can’t really go wrong with any of the sunscreens in this range, our personal favourite is their Pigment Solution Fluid, which not only protects the skin but also actively treats hyperpigmentation.
Fancy a bit of both?
Altruist sunscreens combine the best of both worlds, with a whole range of sunscreens that contain both physical and chemcial UV filters - at a very affordable price.
But there's SPF in my makeup?
One of the most important things to be aware of is that the SPF you find in makeup and moisturisers just isn’t enough to protect your skin from UV damage, so don’t rely solely on this. You would need to cake your face in those products to get the advertised protection, so choose a separate, specific sun protection as part of your daily skincare routine. It should be used every morning as the final product (before makeup if wearing any). If you would like to have a product that works as an SPF and makeup, then we would recommend checking out the Colorescience makeup range.
Whatever factor 30+ sunscreen you choose, be sure to use it daily, top up frequently as needed and stay sun safe.
Need help choosing the right products for your skin type and needs? Glowday lists hundreds of aesthetic practitioners specialising in skincare.