While it might feel nice to sit outside and bask in the warmth of the sun, it’s important to be aware of the adverse effects of sun exposure. Harmful UV rays can cause premature ageing, skin cancer and other health problems. In fact, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. That’s why it’s so important to wear sun cream every day, even on cloudy days.
But not all sun creams are created equal. Some are more effective than others at protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. So how do you choose the best sun cream? Here are our tips.
How to choose the best sun cream
The sun cream market can be a minefield because it’s full of complex jargon and symbols that you may not be familiar with. Here, we break down some of the terms that you might find on a sun cream bottle:
SPF: SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It measures how well a sunscreen protects your skin from UVB rays, which cause sunburn. The number indicates how long it would take your skin to turn red under UV rays when using the product correctly, compared to wearing no product at all. For example, if your skin usually turns red within 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, wearing an SPF of 15 should protect you for 150 minutes. An SPF of 30 or higher is recommended for most people for everyday use.
- Broad spectrum: A broad-spectrum sun cream protects your skin from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays cause premature ageing, while UVB rays cause sunburn.
- Water resistance: If you’ll be sweating or swimming, choose a sunscreen that is water resistant.
- Fragrance-free: Fragrance-free sun creams are less likely to irritate your skin.
- Chemical vs mineral: Chemical sun creams absorb UV rays, while mineral sun creams (AKA sunblocks) reflect them. Mineral sunscreens tend to be better for those with problem skin.
- Star rating: You may see a star rating on bottles of sun cream, which indicates the amount of UVA protection. Make sure to use a sun cream with four stars or higher for adequate protection.
- Use by date: This will appear as a number followed by the letter ‘M’ within an illustration of a tub or bottle. The number shows the amount of months before the product will go out of date from the date of opening. This symbol is often confusing, as it’s not the same format as the use by date signs that we see on food products.
When choosing the right sun cream for you, remember that you don’t always get what you pay for. Many sun creams can be more expensive than they’re worth simply because they are being sold under the name of a designer brand. Don’t fall victim to the brand name – look out for the words ‘broad spectrum’ or a high star rating to determine whether the product will be effective.
The best sun creams to wear for full protection
La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVMune 400 Invisible Fluid SPF50, RRP £19.99
A great all-rounder at a medium price point! Featuring very high UVA/UVB protection with Ultra Long UVA protection, this ultra resistant formula is specifically developed for sensitive skin. It has an invisible, light-weight and non-greasy texture, and is fragrance-free so as not to irritate skin.
Perfect for a day at the beach, this SPF is water, sweat and sand resistant. Plus, the formula is gentle and prevents stinging eyes, which is ideal for those who have sensitive peepers.
Lancaster Sun Sport Cooling Invisible Body Mist SPF50, RRP £32
A little more on the expensive side, this SPF mist has a range of features that justify its premium price point. Designed with maximum UVA protection and UVB filters to protect against burning as well as short and long-term premature ageing, this SPF by Lancaster is applied as a mist. It is ultra-lightweight, non-greasy, transparent and absorbs quickly.
Super hot day? This formula has a refreshing and cooling feel. It’s also water resistant and suitable for all skin tones.
Bondi Sands Hydra UV Protect SPF 50+ Body Lotion, RRP £10.99
Not just an SPF, this formula from Bondi Sands is infused with ethically sourced algae to deeply hydrate the skin. It features a high UVA/UVB protection for those sunny days on holiday or at the beach.
Planning on paddling? This formula is water resistant and reef-friendly which means that it won’t harm marine life if you’re planning to go wild swimming! And don’t worry – it’s non-greasy and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.
Nivea Sun Suncream Spray SPF50 Protect and Moisture, RRP £6.50
A long-standing, affordable sun cream, Nivea Sun Suncream Spray is extremely popular thanks to its low price point and very high UVA/UVB protection.
It is a lightweight, non-greasy spray that is suitable for everyday use, as it absorbs well into the skin and doesn’t leave a tell-tale white residue.
What’s different about it? Nivea Sun Suncream Spray features the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps keep skin moisturised and aids in the prevention of hyperpigmentation.
Soltan Kids Protect and Moisturise Suncare Roll-On SPF50+, RRP £3.50
Children require extra protection from the sun, so this easy-to-apply roll-on SPF50+ by Soltan is the ideal solution.
This dermatologically tested formula is specially designed to protect a child’s delicate skin. It is fragrance-free and non-greasy, so kids can benefit from extra protection without harsh formulas.
We all know that children will run around and flit from the pool, to the beach, to the playground, so their SPF must be able to stay in place. Luckily, this roll-on is extra water resistant, so whether it’s pool water or sweat, it will stay in place better than a regular SPF – but remember to keep reapplying as normal, just to stay safe!
Sun cream application tips
Once you’ve chosen a sunscreen, be sure to apply it liberally and evenly to all exposed skin, 15 minutes before going outside. Use a teaspoonful for each area of the body, including your face. Reapply every two hours, or more often if you’re sweating or swimming.
By following these tips, you can protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays and help prevent skin cancer, premature ageing, and other health problems.
Does sun cream go out of date?
Yes, sun cream does go out of date. Check for the use by date, which can be seen on the bottle; it’s a symbol featuring a tub or bottle with a number next to the letter ‘M’. This indicates how many months the cream will last after opening, before going out of date. If you need to remember when you opened it, write the date on the bottle or cap in permanent marker – that way, it won’t rub off even if you’re using it regularly!
Does sun cream prevent tanning?
No sun cream will provide 100% protection from the sun, which means that some UV light will still get through to your skin, and possibly tan it. So, even if you are wearing SPF 50 and applying as recommended throughout, you may still find that your skin gets slightly more tanned, especially if you are spending a lot of time in the sun.
Does sun cream block vitamin D?
Again, sun cream does not provide 100% protection from UV rays, which means that your body will produce some vitamin D if you are spending time in the sun while wearing sun cream. If you are conscious of increasing your vitamin D levels, try exposing your forearms to the morning sun for 20 minutes each day. This should be enough to help your vitamin D levels increase.
Feeling inspired to get some more sunshine? Let us inspire you with our list of the most beautiful canal cities in the world.