Sunscreen is one of the most important tools in the prevention of skin cancer.
“So what is Sun Protection Factor (SPF)?”
This measurement system is used globally to determine how much protection a sunscreen will give when applied to the skin at a thickness of 2mg/cm2.
The SPF rating system measures how long you can stay in direct sunlight before your skin starts to burn, and the level of UV rays can be filtered or prevented from attacking the skin.
“What is the difference in protection between SPF 30 & 50?”
There is a 1.3% difference in protection between SPF 30 & SPF 50 sunscreen. SPF30+ sunscreens filter about 96.7% of UV radiation, SPF 50+ sunscreens provide UV protection of 98%.
Most people don’t apply enough of their SPF product to actually receive the level of protection advertised on the bottle. It is important to not let yourself think SPF is a “suit of armour” against the dangers of the sun. Always use SPF alongside other sun-safe practices like shade and covering up. And most importantly, read the instructions on how to apply.
“But my makeup has SPF!”
Loose powders, tinted moisturisers, BB creams, and foundation typically don’t contain high enough levels of SPF. This is because a high level of SPF could alter the skin feel of the product.
Secondly, you may not put on enough to make a difference to actually get the level of SPF advertised. When sunscreen products are tested, typically 24-30ml of a product is applied per 10cm square! For reference, 10cm square area does not fully cover 1 side of my cheek, and I definitely do not apply 30mls of foundation or BB cream to my cheek.
“Will a base tan protect me? And if I tan with the protection, is that okay?”
There is no such thing as a safe way to suntan.
Tanning of skin is initiated as a protective response to radiation exposure from UV exposure, i.e. the sun or tanning booths (which were banned for a good reason). Melanin pigment is sent to the surface to try and shield our vital skin cells; however, as radiation continues, you receive permanent, irreversible DNA damage within those cells. DNA damage results in our cells mutating or creating copies of these now damaged faulty cells.
Research indicates that damage occurring from UV exposure results in changes in the p53 gene. P53 essentially acts as a huge ‘STOP! Go back and fix it!’ button, which, when compromised, results in skin malformations and cancers.
UVA and UVB overexposure result in a breakdown of dermal connective tissue (collagen), this equals a loss of elasticity, wrinkling and loss of skin tone. It is estimated that 80% of premature facial ageing is due to skin damage from UV exposure.
The production of this protective melanin is physiologically limited by each individual’s skin type, and this defence mechanism is exhausted very quickly. Extensive research has been conducted in this area. Studies have concluded that a base tan affords no protection against future exposure. At best, a Harvard study explored the protective effects of having a tan, which only turned out to be equivalent to an SPF 3. An SPF 30 is much better and more reliable!