If you’ve booked a holiday this year you’re probably thinking about buying some… hell, you might even have bought it already! We’re all told to use it, and all made aware of the fancy lingo like ‘SPF’, ‘UVA’ and ‘UVB’… but do you truly understand why we need to use sun creams? You’re probably thinking, ‘don’t be silly, of course I know why; to stop me burning and getting cancer!’ You’re right, but the vast majority of people still aren’t taking the right steps to protect their skin.
I for one love summer; the warmth, getting a nice bronze tan, beach hair, wearing strappy summer dresses and flip-flops, and lazing next to the pool all day, so I’ve been reading up on the reasons why we need to protect our skin, and I thought I would take some time to share with you what I’ve found.
Your skin is made up of two types of pigmentation; carotene, which is orange-yellow (and found in foods like carrots) and melanin, which is brown, yellow-brown or black, and this is the layer that absorbs UV radiation and actually protects the layers below it.
Of course there are benefits of being in the sun; the sun is a great source of vitamin D3, which is great for strong bones and healthy hair, but if the skin burns, not only does it damage the nerves and make you turn red, but it can damage your DNA and triple your risk of skin cancer.
Sun cream has ingredients in it, that helps prevent UV radiation from reaching the skin, by either reflecting it, or chemically converting it into heat instead. There is no sun cream that will block the suns rays 100%, so you can still tan a little even if you are wearing sun cream, just at a slower rate. What’s more, as an added bonus, sun cream can actually help to keep you looking young and your skin tone even, as UV exposure is the number one cause of premature aging of the face and discolouration!
SPF, UVA, UVB… What does it all mean?
UV stands for ultraviolet (radiation) and there are two types; UVA and UVB.
UVB is responsible for actually burning the skin and is the main cause for cancer. This is where SPF comes in. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is indicated by the big number you usually see on the front of the bottle. The higher the number, the greater the protection. Simple.
Or is it?
Actually both UVB and A can penetrate into the skin and cause cancer, so it is important when you’re looking at purchasing a sun cream, to look at the exact type of protection you are getting to protect against both.
It used to be rare for the UVA rating to be printed on bottles of sun cream. Sometimes manufacturers would place a star rating on the back of the bottle, but more and more manufacturers are now printing this on the front of the bottle alongside the SPF so it’s nice and clear. UVA protection is given a star rating. The more stars, the better the protection. It’s recommended that you opt for a cream with either 4 or 5 star protection!
Just because a sun cream has a high SPF and says it gives high protection, the UVA star rating could actually be very low, so you may be exposing yourself to harmful rays without even realising. Like this example