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Common Sunscreen Questions Answered By Experts

There is something about opening your curtains in the morning and seeing the sun beaming through the window that just gives you a serotonin boost. But with the sunshine comes the need to protect yourself from the UV rays and the disagreements about sunscreen starts. Our skincare experts are putting a stop to all of the uncertainty regarding sunscreen below…

Why do I need sunscreen?

Sunscreen protects you from an inflammatory reactive to ultraviolet radiation damage - this is effectively when you go bright red and burn. There are two different variations of UV rays - UVB is more prominent in the summer months here in the Northern Hemisphere and can cause the skin to burn and skin cancer-related health problems. Then there is UVA which is around all year, no matter if it is glorious sunshine or a cloudy day - it can still cause premature ageing and sun damage.

Sunburn is your body’s inflammatory reaction to ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to the skin. At the core of it all is melanin, this is a pigment that gives your skin its colour and defends against the sun’s rays. Melanin works by darkening your unprotected sun-exposed skin. The amount of melanin you produce is determined by genetics, which is why some people are more tanned than others. It’s important to remember that both sunburn and tan are signs of cellular damage to the skin. 

How does tanning happen?

Humans tan from UVA radiation, which penetrates the lower layers of the epidermis (the outer layer of your skin), where it triggers cells called melanocytes to produce melanin - this is the pigment that tanning causes the body protects itself from burning by producing melanin, this is why those living closer to the equator tend to have darker skin, due to higher amounts of melanin having to be produced, in order to protect the skin. But just because a person doesn’t burn, doesn’t mean they are protected against skin cancer or other health problems.

UVA penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB, as the UVA rays can go all the way through the skin’s epidermis to the dermis, where blood vessels and nerves are found.

Does a higher factor sunscreen impact a tan?

The simple answer is no, the higher the factor of your sunscreen does not impact how well you tan - no matter what your friends tell you as they lather themselves in oil on a sunbed. Sunscreen is formulated that the higher the factor (for example SPF 30/50) the longer it will protect you from the sun's rays - usually, you should apply a factor 50 sunscreen every 2-3 hours, dependent on your activity. However, if you are opting for a lower-factor sunscreen such as 15 or 20 then you should be applying that between every 30-60 minutes. 

All a lower factor SPF is doing is providing more work in reapplying the sunscreen regularly and leaving the risk of sun damage.

Should I apply oil to tan?

If you can take anything away from this, don’t apply oil if you’re after a tan. Body oils can feel luxurious and softening to the skin - but not when you are going to be laying out in the sun - think of this a bit like pan frying meat - you add oil to cook through and crisp the chicken, this is effectively what you are doing to your skin when you apply oil, frying it. 

What should I do if I burn?

No one wants to be that person with sunburnt shoulders and as many old wives' tales that you try, there is no quick fix to sunburn. However, there are various different steps you can take in order to speed up the process and elevate some of the pain caused including taking anti-inflammatory antihistamines, applying shea butter and aloe vera - but unfortunately, it is a case of staying hydrated and drinking more water, in order for the skin to repair itself.

How does the sun impact ageing?

The sun is the leading factor for causing premature ageing - unlike the normal ageing process, which is dictated by age and genetics ‘photoaging’ happens when ultraviolet light from the sun and/or tanning beds permanently damages the structure of the skin. If you are wondering whether or not you have been impacted by photoageing, try comparing the skin on an area of the body that is usually not exposed to the sun that often, this could be your thighs or the bottom of your back - can you see a difference in the skin there compare to your shoulders, neck or face?

Signs of sun ageing begin in the teens to early twenties, which is why it's super important to make sure your kids are applying sunscreen regularly to their faces, even if they are moody teenagers! Symptoms of sun damage include the following:

  • Wrinkling
  • Pigmentation changes such as age spots, liver spots and freckles
  • Loss of skin tone resulting in a decreased elasticity 
  • Rough or uneven skin texture
  • Broken capillaries - also known as spider veins, these are usually around the nose and chest
  • Redness and blotchiness on the skin - usually on the face

There you have it, all of your top questions regarding sunscreen answered. If you want to learn more, follow us on social media @proverbskin.