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When we think of sunscreen, our minds often fill with nostalgic memories of summers at the beach rubbing copious amounts of the stuff into our skin to make sure we didn’t return home with a serious burn.
While we’re still sure to make sunscreen part of our seaside routine, it really should be a part of your everyday routine as well.
“The skin is the largest organ in the body and sunscreen should be a part of your regular routine to keep it protected,” Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, tells Yahoo UK.
“Sunlight is made up of multiple wavelengths of light of which the most damaging to the skin are UVA and UVB.
"UVB radiation is the ray responsible for sunburn, when the skin reddens or peels this due to direct damage to DNA in our keratinocytes (skin cells). It is of shorter wavelength and does not penetrate as deep as UVA.
"UVA, on the other hand, is often considered to be the ray responsible for premature skin ageing like fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and skin laxity.”
The NHS recommends wearing sunscreen if you’re spending time in the sun between 11am to 3pm during the months of March to October. It adds that sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer and that you can burn in the UK even on a cloudy day.
Watch: What is SPF and why is it important?
There were 16,202 new cases of melanoma skin cancer reported in the UK between 2015 and 2017 and 86% of these were preventable.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): “The risk of developing skin cancer can be reduced by, for example, avoiding getting burnt, opting to stay in the shade during the middle of the day, wearing protective clothing and using high‑SPF products.”
What is the best sunscreen to use?
“When choosing what sunscreen product to use for regular use, the best option is always a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and UVA protection, particularly during the summer months,” says Dr Walayat Hussain of the British Association of Dermatologists.
“To tell if a sunscreen has good UVA protection, look for a UVA logo or a four or five-star UVA rating.
"Once you have your sunscreen, more is better when it comes to application, especially between 11am and 3pm when the UV index will be at its highest.”
Read more: The best beachfront campsites in the UK
Mahto adds that the ideal sunscreen should have both UVA and UVB protection.
“This is what’s known as a broad-spectrum sunscreen,” she says. “The use of regular broad-spectrum sunscreen can lower your risk of sunburn (five or more sunburns before the age of 18 years can double your lifetime risk of melanoma), and slow down premature skin ageing if it is of concern.”
How often should you reapply sunscreen?
Mahto says to apply plenty of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun and to reapply every two hours after that. You should also reapply straight after swimming and towel drying.
What are the benefits of wearing sunscreen?
Besides the fact that wearing high SPF sunscreen can protect you from skin cancer, regularly wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen can also protect against premature skin ageing.
Can you use foundation or moisturisers with SPF instead of sunscreen?
In short: probably not.
“Firstly, SPF tells you about the UVB protection in your product but is not a good indicator of how much protection you are getting against UVA - both rays are damaging to the skin,” Mahto explains.
“Secondly, studies repeatedly show that we often tend to under-apply our skincare products rather than our sunscreen so we don’t get the same level of protection.
"So in an ideal scenario, if you are concerned about skin cancer risk and premature skin ageing, the best advice would be to wear a separate sunscreen from your moisturiser for those two reasons.”
However, in the depths of winter, when we hardly see the sunlight except for our quick lunch breaks in the middle of the day, Mahto says it’s okay to wear SPF-infused moisturiser as your only form of protection.
“If you work outdoors, do sport or train outside, have extreme sensitivity to the sun, or are simply concerned about your skin cancer risk and skin ageing, then the safest option is to opt for a separate broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30,” Mahto continues.
“And remember - we can all probably do with a vitamin D supplement in the winter months.”
5 top-rated sunscreens for summer
NIVEA SUN Protect & Moisture Suncream Lotion SPF 30 | £6 from Boots
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Hydrating Sun Cream SPF30 | £12.37 (Was £16.50) from Boots
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid SPF50+ | £13.50 (Was £18) from lookfantastic
Eucerin Photoaging Control Sun Fluid SPF50 | £14.99 (Was £19.99) from Superdrug
VICHY Idéal Soleil Sun-Milk for Face & Body SPF 50+ | £14.25 (Was £19) from lookfantastic
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