Sunscreens - A guide to protection from the SUN

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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about sun protection in summer.  Another guide existis for sun protection in winter, particularly useful for time spent on the slopes during the ski / snowboard season.

1. What does the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) mean? How do I choose which SPF is right for me?

2. What is sunburn?

3. Will using sunscreen stop me from getting a tan?

4. Do I really need to reapply my sunscreen every 2-3 hours?

5. Do I need to apply the product 20 minutes before sun exposure?

6. What is UV radiation? What is the difference between UVA and UVB?

7. How long does sunscreen last before it goes out of date? Can I use a tube left from last year?

8.  Sun protection for Children - How do I choose which SPF is right for my children?

9.  If I am applying an insect repellent, will it effect the protection offered by a sunscreen product?

 1. What does the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) mean? How do I choose which SPF is right for me? 

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on the bottle gives you a guide to the level of protection against the sun’s rays that the product offers – low (SPF 2 to 6), medium (SPF 8 to12) or high/very high (SPF 15 to 30). In simple terms, the higher the SPF, the more protected you are. However, choosing the right SPF depends on several factors. Firstly and most importantly, it depends on your skin type (colour of the skin before exposure to the sun, hair and eye colour, etc.). Secondly, it is affected by such things as where you are going on holiday, what time of the year it is, how used your skin is to the sun, etc.

  •  Very fair skin, red hair and freckles Always burns, never tan.  Self protection: 5/10 mins

- Suggestion:  SPF 20 – 30 or higher

  •   Fair skin, blond hair, some freckles Burns easily, tans slightly.  Self protection: 10/20 mins

- Suggestion:  SPF 15 – 20 or higher

  •  Darker skin, dark hair, no freckles Sometimes burns, tan moderately.  Self protection: 20/30 mins

- Suggestion:  SPF 6 – 15 or higher

  •   Dark skin, dark brown/black hair Burns minimally, always tans.  Self protection: 30/40 mins 

- Suggestion:  SPF 2 – 6 or higher

The SPF can also be explained as follows: if you can normally stay in the sun for 15 minutes without burning you have a SELF-protection of 15 minutes. Now here’s the secret. The SPF number on the bottle increases your time in the sun multiplied by your own SELF-protection (based on standardised laboratory tests that “mimic” sun exposure). This means: if your SELF-protection time is 15 minutes and you use a SPF 8 sun protection you can stay in the sun for 120 minutes (for 2 hours) without getting burned. But watch out after 2 hours you are no longer protected – even if you reapply the product!  So choose the right SPF factor from the onset.

2. What is sunburn? 

Sunburn is the skin’s reaction to ultraviolet radiation. If the skin is insufficiently protected when exposed to high doses of UV radiation, UV rays immediately start to penetrate the layers of the skin. Eventually blood vessels below the skin’s surface expand and leak fluids, causing inflammation and redness. This is what we call sunburn. Depending on the person’s skin type and the intensity of the UV radiation, this can be in as little as a few minutes.

3. Will using sunscreen stop me from getting a tan? 

Quite the reverse. Although the skin changes colour more slowly when you are wearing sunscreen, the resulting tan will be better and longer-lasting, because the sunscreen will prevent your skin from burning and peeling. Additionally, a gradually achieved tan is safer, more even, and longer lasting. Also, remember that some products contain special ingredients like Melitane (particularly some PIZ Buin products) that stimulates the natural production and even distribution of tanning pigment in the skin.

4. Do I really need to reapply my sunscreen every 2-3 hours? 

It is important to reapply every 2-3 hours, because any sunscreen can lose its protection performance, especially after swimming, exercising outdoor, or because of rubbing against clothes or your beach towel.

5. Do I need to apply the product 20 minutes before sun exposure? 

Yes. Get into the habit of applying protection whenever you’re going outside. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you are exposed to the sun to allow optimum absorption of the lotion and to ensure maximum protection even during your journey from home to the beach.

6. What is UV radiation? What is the difference between UVA and UVB?  

UV is the standard abbreviation for “ultraviolet”. UV radiation is one of the types of radiation emitted by the sun (the others are infrared, or heat, and visible light). UV radiation is subdivided into three types, based on its wavelength: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays are absorbed completely by the earth’s atmosphere, but we need to protect ourselves against UVB (the prime cause of sunburn) and UVA (the prime cause of long-term skin damage and premature skin ageing). Always make sure you buy a product that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

7. How long does sunscreen last before it goes out of date? Can I use a tube left from last year? 

It depends whether the tube has already been opened or not. If not, there is absolutely no problem.  Leading brands are tested according to the EU legislation and have a useful life span longer than 30 months.

However, if your bottle has already been opened more than 12 months ago, you should no longer use it – as recommended by the European standards for all suncare brands.

8.  Sun protection for Children - How do I choose which SPF is right for my children?

Babies under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight.  Their skin is thinner and incapable of producing enough melanin to adequately protect itself.  For babies older than 6 months, it is generally considered safe to use a sunscreen on the babies face and the back of their hands.  A product with a SPF of at least 40 is recommended. 

The more that children are exposed to the sun, the greater their chances of permanent skin damage and even skin cancer.

Sunburn in childhood - when we first start to experience our sun exposure -is considered a key risk factor for melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer, because it can be lethal. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood is estimated to double the risk of getting melanoma later in life. The flip side of this is that if we can prevent sunburns in kids, skin cancer and death from skin cancer should decrease.

Apply a product with a SPF of at least 30-50 for children pre-teens.  Ensure that the product is applied regularly, particularly after activities such as exercise and swimming.  Apply to all exposed areas and under clothing i.e. t-shirts.  

SLAP, SLIP, SLAP, SLOP - apply at least 20-minutes prior to dressing, slip on a T-shirt, slap on a bit more sunscreen to exposed areas and slop on a hat!

9.  If I am applying an insect repellent, will it effect the protection offered by a sunscreen product?

If you are using an insect repellent in conjunction with a suncreen product, it's always best to apply the sunscreen first.  This rule equally applies to cosmetic products.       

AUTAN, a leading producer of insect repellent products, claims that if you follow this advice, it will not reduce the effectiveness of your sunscreen product. 

NATURAL CROCODILE Sun Cream contains Sun Screens & Natural Insect Repellent (SPF15).  There is also an Aftersun product for the evening.  If SPF 15 is your ideal SPF factor and you'll be experiencing environments where flying insects are present, this may be the right product for you.

90% of the Suncreen products stocked at Starfish Direct are: 

Contact us for a list of recommended products (PDF file) by E-mail

You can do this via a 'contact seller' link in our eBay Travel Shop

Sunscreens & Self Tanning aisle

Insect Repellents & Bite Relief products

At Starfish Direct Travel Shop we welcome your questions!  Whilst we try to offer comprehensive advice and information, there is always something we've missed.  We try our utmost to explain things accurately and clearly: if this is not the case, please let us know!   

Regards

Toni @ Starfish Direct Travel Shop

Technical Product Manager 

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