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Notes on A Guide to SPF

While many of us have a particular affinity for our eye creams or a penchant for luxurious facial oils, it is sunscreen that should really be considered the cornerstone of our skincare routines. It’s the most important element of any good skincare routine to prevent sun damage and protect our delicate skins. We know that prolonged exposure to UV radiation is the single leading cause of premature ageing, so sunscreen is paramount in keeping the complexion youthful (and not to mention protecting us against dangerous skin cancers). Prevention is key, sun damage can so easily be avoided with the simple application of a broad spectrum SPF. Here is an overview of everything you need to know about this humble anti-ageing product. 

What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It measures the level of protection your sunscreen offers against UVB rays. According to the Cancer Council Australia, SPF30 sunscreen filters 96.7% of UV radiation and SPF50+ filters 98%. I always recommend a broad spectrum of at least SPF30 or higher, every single day no matter the weather.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
The sun emits two different types of rays: ultraviolet A (UVA) and shortwave ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA rays penetrate deep below the skin’s surface and lead to signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, laxity and sunspots (remember ‘A’ for ageing). UVB rays don’t penetrate as deeply but can cause sunburn and cancer (remember ‘B’ for burning).

What is broad-spectrum sunscreen?
Broad-spectrum sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. For this reason, it’s the type recommended by Cancer Council Australia.

What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?
Physical sunscreen (also known as mineral sunscreen) relies on ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to form a barrier on top of the skin’s surface that physically blocks out the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, relies on active ingredients like avobenzone or oxybenzone to absorb UV rays before they can damage the skin. Both sorts of sunscreen are effective. Personally, I use a chemical sunscreen.

What should I look for in a sunscreen?
The best sunscreen is the one that you’ll actually want to use every morning. Find a texture that you love, whether that’s a lightweight gel, a nourishing cream, a luxurious oil, or a plumping lotion. Some sunscreens can double as a skin-perfecting primer for foundation! Use a broad spectrum of at least SPF30 or higher year-round, and switch this out to an SPF50 during the summer months if you can. While some makeup products contain sunscreen, using a specific sunscreen will always ensure you are getting adequate coverage – and remember to reapply throughout the day. The SPF in your makeup can be considered a bonus but it’s not enough to skip the SPF!

What is the best way to apply sunscreen?
Sunscreen should be applied as the final step in your morning skincare routine each and every day, regardless of the weather or if you’re planning on being indoors, if you’re exposed to light through a window it’s essential. When it comes to sunscreen application, be generous. A teaspoon-sized amount is a good gauge of how much product to use across your face, neck and decolletage. Don’t forget a body formula for any other exposed areas. If you are outdoors, reapply every two hours or as directed, keeping in mind that most sunscreens take about 20 minutes to work after being applied.