How Much Sunscreen Do I Need?
How Much Sunscreen Do I Need?
It’s common knowledge that too much exposure to the sun can do some serious damage to your skin. You may think that using an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is just for the summer, as this is when the sun’s rays are most powerful. But that’s where you would be wrong. Whether it’s raining, cloudy or sunny, or if you’re out for 5 hours or just 5 minutes – UV rays have a damaging effect on your skin 365 days a year.
By using sunscreen, or even a day cream with an SPF of at least 30 every day, you can keep your skin protected (and looking younger)!
You probably have several questions about sunscreen and all the terminology around it – UVA, UVB, it can become confusing! That's exactly why we are going to break it down for you.
What is the difference between UVA and UVB’s?
UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB (Ultraviolet B) are two types of UV light. These can't be seen by your eyes, but your skin can definitely feel them. These can come from natural sources like the sun and artificial sources such as tanning beds.
UVA rays are more penetrating than UVB rays, meaning they can affect cells deeper in the skin. These are also the rays that cause your skin to age prematurely, leading to visible signs such as wrinkles. What you may not know is that UVA rays can penetrate windows and clouds.
UVB rays have relatively shorter wavelengths than UVA rays but have higher energy levels. They damage the outermost layers of the skin but still contribute to premature skin ageing.
Exposure to both is highest in the spring and summer due to the higher angle of the sun, but this can still affect you in the autumn and winter months.
Can you see sun damage instantly?
The immediate sun damage you can see is sunburn. Your cells and blood vessels will have been damaged, causing that redness you would have on your skin. But your skin can become damaged even without a sunburn!
With repeated sun damage from UVA rays free radicals form, which can cause damage to your DNA and skin structure. Collagen plays a role in this as well as the damage changes the way it breaks down and regenerates, which leads to the appearance of wrinkles. It is reported that sun exposure and damage is the primary cause of skin ageing.
So how much sunscreen do I need?
According to the NHS, most people do not apply enough sunscreen. You should be using approximately two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimetre of skin. But how does that equate to an amount you can see? It’s about equivalent to two tablespoons if you are covering your whole body, but more like two teaspoons if you are just covering your head, arms, and neck.
The best way to make sure that you are applying enough sunscreen is:
- Spread a layer you can see over the areas of your skin that will get exposed to daylight.
- Massage this layer into your skin.
- If you plan to spend a while in the sun, apply another slightly thinner layer on top.
Sunscreen should always be the final step in your daytime skincare routine, as any product you put on top of it may dilute it and reduce its effectiveness.
Does doubling up work?
You might have the instinct to reach out for all your products containing SPF when the sun is out – sunscreen, moisturiser, foundation – and layer them to get maximum coverage. Putting on a moisturiser with SPF 20 and then a foundation with an SPF of 15 should give you a total SPF of 35, right? But that is not the case. Sunscreens limit the number of UV rays getting to your skin, but this limit is based on the highest SPF number you are using. Layering the products will not increase the number of active ingredients, so won't add any extra coverage.
Do I need sunscreen if I’m inside all day or if it’s cloudy?
Absolutely! The UVA rays of daylight are present all year round, and they can come through windows. You can even get skin damage from the blue light of your screens! Just a few minutes of UV light exposure each day can add up over the years, causing your skin to age faster than you want.
Clouds can also give us a false sense of security – we think that we are not getting much sun when there is a layer of cloud in the sky and tend to stay outside longer. But overexposure to the sun can happen without us being aware of it, resulting in signs of sun damage or burning.
Using an SPF, should be part of your daily skincare routine all year round – this way it becomes a habit, and you are protecting yourself.