5 words of wisdom on sun protection

The 5 W's of Sun Protection
One sunscreen does not fit all, according to Britain's leading dermatologist and SPF guru Dr Nick Lowe. The variety of different sunscreen products available on the market today from SPF day creams, foundations, BB creams, through to high factor sunscreens, has made the sun protection market a minefield for the consumer. Follow these new 5 W's of sun protection from Dr Nick Lowe to make sure that you are always practicing safe sun.

WHO needs sunscreen?
The short answer is everyone, especially those that think they don't need one! Even if you have olive, Asian or darker skin, sun protection with proven UVA is essential. UVA rays are the main cause for ageing in these skin types: patchiness, spider veins, enlargement of blood vessels, increased darkening, collagen and elastin damage. In white skin, UVA rays contribute to all of these, plus wrinkles, while UVB rays burn the skin  UVA and UVB can cause skin cancers.

WHAT might make the sun protection in my foundation or day cream less effective than a sunscreen?
Many companies are unwilling to sacrifice the texture and feel of their formula for adequate sun protection. The ingredients used to block the sun (especially those that block UVA rays), contribute to the greasy feel of many sunscreens; this is why many day creams or protective foundations that have an SPF don't contain them. The SPF number on a bottle only refers to protection against UVB rays, and has nothing to do with UVA protection; meaning a product with an SPF 30 may not contain any ingredients that defend against UVA rays. 

WHERE do I need a different SPF than my daily protection?
If you are away on holiday in the Med, you may need a higher SPF with UVA protection than you use in the UK. In the Mediterranean summer sun, those with skin type II (the most common in the UK) will burn after 10 minutes, so slather on an SPF 30 with good UVA to make sure the stronger sun doesn't burn or damage your skin. At home in the UK, you will burn after about 20 minutes exposure to the summer sun. Your daily moisturiser with an SPF 15 and UVA is perfect for normal daily activities - it will give you 4 hours of protection; unless you're planning on spending extended time in the sun when Dr Lowe recommends using an SPF 30 with UVA. This will give you about six hours protection, but reapply as necessary.

WHEN do I need sun protection?
Mad-dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun - in the summer months UVB 'burning rays' are at their highest between 10 am and 2pm, but UVA 'ageing rays' are present day and year round, which is why even in the winter, on a cloudy day, or when driving your car you need sunscreen to protect against UVA.

WHY is a higher SPF, such as an SPF 50 not always needed?
Unless you are a redhead (skin type I), an SPF of 50 is overkill, even in the Mediterranean. An SPF of 50 would give you about 8 hours protection, which even in high sun is unnecessary. Some ingredients that defend against UVA will degrade when exposed to the sun rays. This means the effectiveness of the UVA protection sunscreen will decrease throughout the day. Also, a higher SPF exposes your skin to unnecessary chemicals. Dr Lowe suggests re-applying a lower factor SPF throughout the day, especially after swimming or towelling off to make sure that both your SPF and UVA protection is always topped up. Make sure you are using enough sunscreen: too thin a layer - no matter how high the factor - means you won't benefit from the protection rating on the label. Dr Lowe advises using one teaspoonful for the face, neck and backs of hands, and a level tablespoon for the front of the body, another for the back, at least another for your legs and nearly another for your arms. If you're at the beach or doing sport, opt for a waterproof formula with broad spectrum protection.