Under the skin: Get the low down on suncream

Under the skin: We've got the low down on suncream Credit: Nigel French/PA

Whatever your age, the best way to enjoy the sun safely and protect your skin from sunburn is a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen.

As a nation we don't apply suncream often enough, or with a high enough sun protection factor - or SPF. Although it won't completely protect us from sun damage, it is very useful for protecting parts of skin we can't shade.

Here's some facts, and myths around the life-saving product.


The jargon - what does it all mean?

  • UVA: Rays that penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, causing cell damage and premature sin ageing. They account for up to 95% of the solar UV radiation.

  • UVB: Rays that hit the top layer of the skin and are responsible for burning, tanning, and skin damage.

  • BROAD SPECTRUM: Sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.


What to buy

  • Cancer Research UK recommend buying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 - to give UVB protection - and a high star rating with at least four stars - to give a UVA protection.


How - and when - to apply

  • PUTTING ENOUGH ON - to get full protection ensure all your exposed skin is thoroughly covered using around two teaspoons of sunscreen for just your head, arms and neck and two tablespoons for your entire body.

  • REAPPLY - it is easily rubbed, sweated or washed off. Reapply at least every two hours.

  • WAIT - at least 30 minutes before going into the sun after applying an don’t be tempted to spend longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen.

  • EXPIRY - check the expiry date on your bottle - most have a long shelf life, but keeping them in the sun will reduce this and even ruin protective chemicals.

Credit: Nigel French/PA

What about water resistance?

  • Even sunscreens that claim to be 'water resistant' or 'waterproof' should be reapplied after going in water - especially if you are towelled dry.


What factor to use

  • MINIMUM - you should be using a minimum of SPF30 on your body as it protects against 97% of UVB rays.

  • FACE - ideally you should also use SPF50 on your face which protects against 98% of UVB rays.

  • Some sunscreens claim to provide effective protection after just one application - but even with these sunscreens, reapplying regularly is important.